Cancer Research UK



This project aims to inform policy relating to funding decisions for cancer drugs. This is an area with a history of contentious decisions that have provoked strong public responses, and led to policy initiatives such as the Cancer Drugs Fund, and special consideration for drugs that treat end-of-life or rare conditions, in the countries of the UK. We are interested in the aspects of health technology appraisal that are particularly challenging in cancer, including how to value aspects of health benefit that fall outside the standard measures of cost effectiveness, and the uncertainties inherent in survival data from clinical trials, particularly when promising drugs for unmet needs are presented for appraisal at early stages of development.


We work closely with colleagues from Cancer Research UK, to make sure we are addressing research questions of direct policy relevance, whilst retaining the objectivity of an academic research institution in the way we do the work. Our approach uses mixed methods, combining qualitative and quantitative research with literature and document review to understand the complexities of the decision-making process and explore opportunities for reform.


Specific areas we have explored include:

  • Exploring the societal basis for a preference for health gain to cancer patients (paper submitted)
  • Evaluating cancer-specific adaptations to health technology appraisal that have arisen around the world, in response to the particular challenges of cancer cost-effectiveness
  • Analysing differences in drug access between the devolved nations of the UK: what can they tell us about what is important to patients and clinicians? (paper submitted: an earlier version of this work is available here as a poster presentation from the CRUK Oxford Centre’s Annual Symposium 2016)
  • Predicting the uncertainties expected to lead to conditional funding through the reformed Cancer Drugs Fund in England (paper submitted: an earlier version of this work is available here as a poster presentation from the CRUK Oxford Centre’s Annual Symposium 2016)

Other outputs include background papers for CRUK addressing specific issues of interest, and collaboration with CRUK on responses to government policy consultations, including the Cancer Drugs Fund, the Montgomery Review in Scotland, and NICE’s consultation on patient engagement.

Core Team

Liz Morrell: Post-doctoral researcher, CASMI

Sarah Wordsworth: Associate Professor, Health Economics Research Centre, University of Oxford

Sian Rees: Director, Health Experiences Institute, University of Oxford, and PPI lead for Oxford AHSN

This project is funded by the Policy Department, Cancer Research UK.

For more information on the project, contact Liz Morrell.