Government spending on cancer research is nearing, and may have exceeded, that of charities.
Sir John Pattison, director of research, analysis and information at the Department of Health and former dean of medicine at University College London, said state funding had reached charitable sector levels as part of a national push towards improved treatment.
Prime minister Tony Blair pledged in September 2000 to match the amount spent by charities "pound for pound" by 2003. Professor Pattison's statement to the House of Commons science and technology select committee last week suggests this has been achieved more than a year early.
Unofficial DoH estimates went further, putting the state spend at £189 million compared with the charities £180 million. This includes £84 million through the DoH, £50 million through the Medical Research Council, £26 million through the Higher Education Funding Council, £10 million through other research councils and £12 million through other health departments.
But a spokeswoman for the Cancer Research Campaign, which is merging with the Imperial Cancer Research Fund to form Cancer Research UK, said the charities were in fact spending about £200 million each year.
She said that the government was certainly spending more money but that not all of it was going directly into cancer research.
Professor Pattison insisted that there was parity if the indirect costs of supporting research in the National Health Service such as the provision of beds was taken into account.