We explain what impact we hope the merger of Breast Cancer Campaign and Breakthrough Breast Cancer will have on breast cancer research.

Wednesday 25 February 2015      Research blog
Better Together - how merging of two charities will benefit science

In November 2014, we announced we are merging with the other big funder of breast cancer research, Breast Cancer Campaign. This merger will make the new charity the UK’s largest dedicated funder of breast cancer research. We strongly believe that this merger will be highly beneficial for science, research and most importantly, people affected by breast cancer. Here we explain what impact we hope the merger will have on breast cancer research.

Research that fits

Both Breakthrough and Campaign are committed to funding the very best in breast cancer research. This is one of the reasons why the merger makes so much sense. Instead of competing in the crowded fundraising arena we can unite all our supporters and grow as a charity.

Both our funds are currently divided up to cover research into prevention, diagnosis, finding new treatments and tackling the problem of secondary breast cancer. As a single charity we will continue to fund these areas and, together, we will make a bigger impact.

Breakthrough and Campaign have two distinct ways of funding research which, when brought together, represent a comprehensive package of science across the UK and Ireland.

We’ve explained before how Breakthrough funds research. Campaign’s funding involves a rigorous peer review process involving a Scientific Advisory Board and the charity’s Trustees, just like at Breakthrough. But instead of funding long-term programmes at dedicated institutes, each year Campaign opens two calls for applications to all researchers at centres of excellence across the UK and Ireland. Within these calls researchers can apply for different types of grants, ranging from one year pilot grants to kick-start innovative new ideas, to five year Scientific Fellowships that keep outstanding scientists in breast cancer research.

Additionally, to address particular areas of need identified by Campaign’s seminal Gap Analysis, Campaign has introduced a commissioned research funding stream which has, to date, invested around £1m into breast cancer research. This money has been invested in three peer reviewed research projects to tackle gaps in the area of breast cancer prevention.

The differences in our methods of funding are stark when you look at the numbers: each year Breakthrough invests around £9m, funding six research grants in four different locations, while Campaign invests around £5.4m a year and currently supports around 82 research grants in centres spanning UK and Ireland. Each method has its advantages and it will be fantastic to see them integrated into a bolder, more innovative research strategy.

Benefits to science

It’s very rare in science that big discoveries just happen overnight. Research just doesn’t really work like that; it’s much more an incremental process, involving smaller findings from a lot of different labs.  This collaborative environment is the cornerstone of good research and without it we would be missing some of the biggest advances in medical research. The merger of Breakthrough and Campaign offers an opportunity for new and exciting collaborations to pop up.

Dr Rachael Natrajan, a scientist funded by both Campaign and Breakthrough, gave us her thoughts on the merger:

“I think the merger will unite all of the breast cancer researchers in the UK, helping to stimulate new ideas and allow us to work more closely.  This could be very beneficial because it can open up access to new tools and techniques to really drive research forward.”

“Receiving funding from both charities has really helped get my career going.  I have been able to establish my own lab within the Institute of Cancer Research – the thing I am most proud of in my career – and develop excellent relationships with the UK’s best breast cancer researchers.  I strongly believe the merger will encourage more of this and provide more funding for research.”

Learning from others

We know that other charities have been able to unite and take advances in research to the nex