We’ve had some great news today – our chief executive Harpal Kumar has received a knighthood for services to cancer research.
This wonderful announcement acknowledges the significant impact he has had at Cancer Research UK during more than a decade at the charity.
Under his tenure, we’ve funded breakthrough scientific discoveries and secured a range of life-saving policy changes – most recently, the charity’s campaigning has been instrumental in the introduction of standardised cigarette packaging.
And there are many other life-saving advances he has overseen, with just a few listed here:
Cancer Research UK co-funded a trial of Bowel Scope Screening (also called flexi-scope or flexible sigmoidoscopy), which could save thousands of lives a year when fully rolled out in 2016. Pilots of Bowel Scope are underway in England, and soon everyone in England should be offered Bowel Scope Screening at 55, as well as the Faecal Occult Blood Test at 60.
Our scientists have played a key role in developing drugs called PARP inhibitors to target cancers carrying certain genetic faults. Olaparib is the first of these drugs to be approved for treating certain ovarian cancer patients.
Cancer Research UK has also played a vital role in making sure more patients can have innovative radiotherapy treatments. For example, the number of patients in England who are able to have a modern type of radiotherapy called Intensity Modulated Radiotherapy (IMRT) has substantially increased thanks to the Radiotherapy Innovation Fund that we helped establish and deliver.
Harpal chaired the Independent Cancer Taskforce, an exceptional opportunity to oversee the development of the new NHS strategy for cancer in England. The strategy set out what needs to be done to transform cancer services in England over the next five years, from improving prevention, early diagnosis and access to treatments to ensuring patients have a experience of their care. Although it was only published less than 6 months ago, numerous changes are already being put in place.
And following on from his role with the Cancer Taskforce, Harpal will now chair an Independent Advisory Group to advise and oversee progress of the new strategy.
Harpal is dedicated to ensuring that patients are at the heart of everything we do. This can be clearly seen in our most recent research strategy, where he set out the ambition that three-quarters of people with cancer will survive the disease by 2034.
And under his leadership the amount of money the charity spends on life-saving cancer research has increased to £464 million in the last year.
“I am very surprised and deeply honoured,” Harpal tells us. “It is a privilege to lead Cancer Research UK.
“More than anything, this Honour recognises the extraordinary innovation and dedication of our scientists and clinicians to beating cancer, the creativity and passion of our fundraisers and amazing volunteers – with their commitment to maintaining the highest standards – and the tenacity and belief of our policy and information professionals in driving change at all levels, and in providing outstanding support for cancer patients and their families.
“I hope this Honour helps to both mark how far we have come in cancer, whilst also raising awareness of how far we have to go.”
Sir Harpal became Cancer Research UK’s chief executive in 2007, following on from his role as chief operating officer of the charity, to which he was appointed in 2004. He was previously chief executive of Cancer Research UK’s commercial arm, Cancer Research Technology, in 2002.