Cancer deaths could be cut by a third within 25 years, the Imperial Cancer Research Fund predicted yesterday.
The charity, announcing its prognosis for cancer into the next century, said that the past 15 years have been a golden age of laboratory discoveries. But it now plans to concentrate on putting them to work in preventing and treating cancer.
Launching the report, Our Vision for Cancer, Sir Walter Bodmer, director general of the fund, said that the time had come for "more directed programmes".
"The key to managing cancer research is to get the balance right between the basic and the applied," he said. "But, because of the dramatic advances, this may influence the sort of programmes we devote resources to, the sort of fellowships we take on." This could include more clinical fellowships, he said.
"There should be more awareness among those at the basic end of research of thinking of potential applications, of thinking of how they should work with clinicians."
Karol Sikora, ICRF's deputy director of clinical research, said that scientists have discovered a lot about how genes control cancers. They have identified genes that mend the damage sunshine and cigarette smoke cause to healthy cells, and found genes that suppress tumours.
Jack Cuzick, statistician at ICRF, said that breast cancer deaths could be cut by a quarter through preventive drugs, if current trials are successful. These trials will take a decade to complete.
Bowel cancer deaths could be cut by 40 per cent through sophisticated screening. The charity is running a pilot trial with St Mark's Hospital in London.