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Cancer Research Campaign, formerly British Empire Cancer Campaign

  • British Empire Cancer Campaign
  • Archives and manuscripts

About this work


The records cover all aspects of the Campaign's organization and activities. Sections A-C comprise committee minutes, agenda and papers, 1923-1976. The minutes of central headquarters committees are extensive, but there are serious gaps in the top level committees: Grand Council, the Executive Committee and the Scientific Advisory Committee. Efforts to locate the missing records have so far been unsuccessful. In addition, many minutes of sub-committees are either incomplete or unsigned copies. The collection contains very few records of regional branches; and information regarding either their existence or whereabouts is scant. The main body of the archive, Sections D-R, consists largely of files generated by Campaign headquarters, mainly the General Secretary's office. Files contain correspondence, reports, pamphlets, legal documents, press cuttings, articles, off-prints, posters, ephemera, etc. They cover the Campaign's history and organisation; senior members; relations with regional councils, branches, affiliatated bodies and other cancer organisations, both in the UK and overseas; cancer research and government provision; fund raising; research materials and equipment; cancer cures and causes; views and enquiries from the general public; cancer education and publications. There is also a series of press cuttings volumes, and three publicity films made in the 1950s.



Physical description

119 boxes


By section as follows:

A. Committees and Meetings: Central Headquarters, 1923-1975

B. Committees and Meetings: Branches and Regional Councils, 1927-1969

C. Annual General Meetings, 1935-1976. D. Origins, Organisation and Legal, 1923-1973

E. Senior Campaign Members, c.1923-1974

F. Relations With Regional Councils and Branches of the Campaign and Other Local Cancer Organisations in the UK, 1923-1975

G. Relations With Overseas Cancer Research Organizations Affiliated to the Campaign, 1925-1964

H. Relations With Other Cancer Research Charities and Organisations (UK and overseas), 1947-1975

J. Cancer Research and Government Provision, 1938-1978

K. Cancer Congresses and conferences, 1954-1975

L. Fund Raising, 1929-1974

M. Apparatus, Equipment and Chemicals, 1923-1981

N. Cancer Cures and Causes, 1923-1981

P. Enquiries from the General Public, 1963-1974

Q. Cancer Education, 1928-1979

R. Campaign Publications and Films, 1928-1953

S. Press Cuttings, 1923-1939

T. Grants, 1920S-1930S

Note on the Campaign's filing system

Most of the files in Sections A-R contain the Campaign's original alpha-numeric references, which have the prefixes: XC, SC, SM, XP, XI, XE and SE. It has not been possible to obtain a key to decipher this system. In order to facilitate retrieval and research, the files have been arranged into a strict thematic order. For evidential purposes, in this catalogue the old references are included in the Previous Numbers field.

Acquisition note

These records were transferred to the Wellcome Library by the Wellcome Unit for the History of Medicine, Oxford, in July 1996 (Accession No 644). The collection is currently held by Archives and Manuscripts on a permanent loan basis.

Biographical note

The British Empire Cancer Campaign (BECC or "the Campaign") was founded in 1923 "to attack and defeat the disease of cancer in all its forms, to investigate its causes, distribution, symptoms, pathology and treatment and to promote its cure" (see Memorandum and Articles of Association). It was founded amidst rivalry and even hostility from the well-established Imperial Cancer Research Fund (ICRF or "the Fund") and the Medical Research Council (MRC). The ICRF felt that the Campaign would jeopordize its existence and the standing of other well-known cancer research institutions, especially regarding fund-raising; the MRC was concerned that the Campaign would challenge its supremacy within the scientific hierarchy and its control of the direction of biomedical research.

Despite this controversial beginning, the Campaign became a very successful and powerful grant-giving body, allocating funds, (obtained on an entirely voluntary basis), to universities, hospitals, research institutions and individuals, for a wide range of both clinical and biomedical cancer research. (The main difference between the Campaign and ICRF was that the Campaign funded research in external institutions including Commonwealth countries with no similar organizations of their own, while the Fund concentrated almost exclusively on work in its own laboratories). Some of the Campaign's major institutional grantees were the Christie Hospital and Holt Radium Institute, Guy's Hospital, the Cancer Institute, Cambridge University, Bristol University, Middlesex Hospital, Mount Vernon Hospital, Strangeways Research Laboratory, and Westminster Hospital Medical School. The grant-giving activity of the Campaign is not, however, extensively documented in the papers described in this catalogue.

In 1963 the words "for Research" were added to the Campaign's title, partly to strengthen its legal position with regard to doubtfully worded legacies to "cancer research". However, this title was found to be rather cumbersome for everyday use and the words "British Empire" tended to cause confusion with the word "Imperial" in the minds of the public. In 1970, the title Cancer Research Campaign (CRC) was adopted.

In February 2002 the Cancer Research Campaign and the Imperial Cancer Research Fund merged to form Cancer Research UK.

For details of the early history of the Campaign and its relationship with the ICRF and MRC see A history of the Imperial Cancer Research Fund 1902-1986, Dr Joan Austoker (OUP: 1988). Some information on the Campaign's origins and development of its regional organization can be found in Appendix I of the hard-copy list.

Related material

Material held by Archives and Manuscripts, Wellcome Library:

See Sources Leaflet No 35 "Cancer". The Wellcome Library holds incomplete sets of the Campaign's Annual Reports and its journals The Cancer Review (published 1926-1932) and The British Journal of Cancer (founded in 1947).

Terms of use

This collection has been partially catalogued and the catalogued part is available to library members. Some items have access restrictions which are explained in the item-level catalogue records. Requests to view uncatalogued material are considered on a case by case basis. Please contact for more details.

Location of duplicates

The following photographs are held by Wellcome Images: SA/CRC/M.2/1, correspondence re. radium provision, L0041600 SA/CRC/N.1/3/1, publications, correspondence and press cutting re. the "Cardigan Cancer Cure," L0041603

Accruals note

The following is an interim description of material that has been acquired since this collection was catalogued. This description may change when cataloguing takes place in future:

10 boxes received July 2015 (acc. 2192), consisting of:

British Empire Cancer Campaign annual reports, 1924-1969

Imperial Cancer Research Fund annual reports, 1942-1943, 1994-2000
Imperial Cancer Research Fund staff newsletter, Icarus, 1997-2002
Imperial Cancer Research Fund scientific reports and prospectuses, 1923-1934, 1943-1952, 1955-2001 (1979 and 1984 missing)
Imperial Cancer Research Fund conference material, 1997-2002

Cancer Research Campaign projects list, 1978, 1979
Cancer Research Campaign appeals directory, c.2000
Cancer Research Campaign annual reports, 1970-1984, 1991-2001
Cancer Research Campaign grant holders newsletter, 1993-2001
Cancer Research Campaign strategic plan, 1995-2000
Cancer Research Campaign scientific strategic plan, 2000
Cancer Research Campaign file on Temozolomide, 1990s

Cancer Research Campaign / Imperial Cancer Research Fund partnerships, c.2000

Wellcome Trust / Cancer Research Campaign Institute Cambridge prospectus and annual report, 1991-1996, 1999

Paterson Institute for Cancer Research annual reports, 1988-1996 (1994 missing)

Cancer Research Campaign Centre for Cancer Therapeutics scientific report, 1994-1996

Cancer Research Campaign Grey laboratory silver jubilee book, 1982
Cancer Research Campaign Grey laboratory annual reports, 1982-1993
Cancer Research Campaign Grey laboratory research reports, 1994-2000

Cancer Research Campaign Beatson laboratory scientific reports, 1987-2000

Publications, 1985-2001
Photographs, c.1970s-2000

Ownership note

These records were deposited in the Wellcome Unit for the History of Medicine, Oxford, in the mid-1980s via Dr Joan Austoker while she was working on her History of the Imperial Cancer Research Fund and a posited history of the Cancer Research Campaign. Very little regarding the circumstances and terms of that deposit have been ascertained.


  • English

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