It was great to attend Cancer52's Annual All Stakeholder Briefing to hear about their progress so far and plans for the year ahead. We heard from CEO Jane Lyons, and Morfydd Williams, the Programme Director of National Cancer Services at NHS England.

There are more than 200 different types of cancer. However, there are four types of cancer which together cause almost half (46%) of cancer deaths in the UK - lung, breast, prostate and colorectal cancer. These types of cancer grouped together are sometimes called ‘the big four’. Across all types of cancer, on the whole, people’s experience of treatment and care is improving year on year. However, the experience of people with rare and less common cancers is less positive across almost every aspect of treatment and care compared to those people with one of the big four cancers and, in many cases, there appears to be no obvious reason why this should be the case.

Just under half (47%) of people diagnosed with cancer in the UK in 2011 had a rare or less common cancer. However, more than half (54%) of people who die from cancer have a rare or less common type. For people with a rare or less common cancer every stage of the cancer pathway from diagnosis to access to treatments is more difficult, less invested in research and diagnosis is more complex due to the numbers of people with the cancer being smaller, and symptoms less well known. In general, it takes longer for people to be tested and for the results to be reported on.

Cancer52 represents more than 90 predominantly small patient support cancer charities, including the Bone Cancer Research Trust, united by their vision of seeing a better future for everyone affected by the rare and less common cancers - which account for more than half of all cancer deaths in the UK.

Cancer52’s aim is to promote improved diagnosis, treatment and support for those affected by rare and less common cancers, leading to improved quality of life and increased survival. They work on matters that impact on the rare and less common cancer community - defined as all cancers outside the ‘big four’ of breast, prostate, lung and bowel.

CEO, Jane Lyons, announced at the meeting that Morfydd Williams has been successful in securing a further four years of funding for the Cancer Strategy at NHS England. Usually funding is applied for on a yearly basis; this commitment to four years funding allows them to work towards implementing the strategy they have by 2020.