In April, I wrote about CRANES the Aberdeen based cancer research, “CRANES – Cancer Research Aberdeen and North Scotland” They have just launched their new website, which describes the work they have funded to date and their plans for the future.
So what is the difference between a large charity like Cancer Research UK and a smaller charity like CRANES?
Disclaimer, these opinions are my own! Both charities do valuable work and as a scientist, I think we need both. Money given to Cancer Research UK can be spent anywhere in the UK. They tend to focus their funding (quite rightly) on centres of excellence. This makes sense, Cancer Research UK have helped to fund buildings and equipment at specific universities, so a lot of their funding goes to research laboratories in London, Cambridge, Oxford and Glasgow.
I have worked at both Aberdeen University and Dundee University. When I worked at Aberdeen I never met anyone funded by Cancer Research UK whereas in Dundee I knew of several people. I thought I’d check out the Cancer Research UK homepage to see if this had changed in the 5 years since I left. You can find out where Cancer Research UK funds research here. They fund 3 people at Aberdeen University, 20 people in Dundee and 35 in Glasgow.
Are these differences due to the size of the University? It is actually quite hard to compare the sizes (harder than you would think!). Aberdeen College of Life Science has 3000 undergraduate students, Dundee College of Life Science has 1,200 students. I couldn’t work out how many students were at the Faculty of Life and Biomedical Sciences in Glasgow but my gut feeling is that these differences aren’t solely based on the size or the quality of the work produced by the different institutions.
So what about CRANES? They raise money to support cancer research locally in Aberdeen and North East Scotland. They give money to both clinical causes (doctors) and basic laboratory research (scientists). It’s not quite as clear cut as that, of course many doctors also do laboratory research.
Cancer Research UK also fund doctors to carry out research, but one difference between the charities is that CRANES have provided money to buy equipment ot help train staff at Foresterhill to use new, state of the art endcoscopy equipment (used to detect some types of cancer, e.g. colon cancer). Cancer Research UK would be unlikely to fund this sort of equipment, as they have a limited budget and focus on research, not training.
CRANES have also funded a PCR machine at Aberdeen University. It can be very hard to get money to buy equipment from the major research charities, so I am glad to see that a local charity is able to step in and meet this need. Smaller charities are often able to respond to local needs more quickly than large charities.
So who should you give your money to? Both! We need large charities like Cancer Research UK to fund the very expensive, complex research carried out by huge teams of researchers using very specialised facilities. However, I also think we need to put money into local services to improve the care of people in our community. As we are becoming painfully aware, the NHS only has so much money and if charity fundraising can help cancer prevention, detection and treatment locally then that is a good thing.
Do you give money to a cancer charity, if so which one and why? Please leave your comments below.