Ministers warned not to rely on public donations in the fight against cancer

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The generosity of the British public in giving to cancer research charities must not be used as an excuse for restricting government funding, MPs warned yesterday.

The generosity of the British public in giving to cancer research charities must not be used as an excuse for restricting government funding, MPs warned yesterday.

Renewing their pressure on ministers to increase funding for research into the disease, the influential Commons Select Committee on Science and Technology said there was a public desire to find a cure for the disease.

A report by the committee published last year accused the Government of "abdicating its responsibility for cancer research" and called for the state to match or exceed charity donations.

Alan Milburn, the Secretary of State for Health, has since announced an extra £200m for cancer research and plans to set up a National Cancer Research Institute to co-ordinate studies across the country. Dr Michael Clark, the Tory MP for Rayleigh, said yesterday that in the United States, where cancer charities received far less from the public than in Britain, health authorities doubled public donations while in Britainthe Government's contribution was half the total of privatedonations.

Dr Ashok Kumar, the Labour MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland, said experts believed that 700 more oncologists were needed to maintain standards of treatment.

Dr Ian Gibson, the Labour MP for Norwich North, said Britain trailed many of its European neighbours in cancer survival rates. Dr Gibson, a former biologist, suggested that 10,000 deaths a year could be avoided if the average European survival rate was attained in the UK. He added: "There are major geographical differences in this country in the incidence of colon cancer and there is an association with high incidence rates and economic deprivation. We could save lives if the quality of diagnosis, treatment and patient care was spread equally across the country."

Dr Peter Brand, the Liberal Democrat health spokesman, called for changes to the "unduly cumbersome" process of testing new cancer treatments on animals. "There's no doubt that [animal testing] ... will continue to make a significant contribution to our understanding of the causes and treatments of cancers," he said.

David Tredinnick, the Tory MP for Bosworth and treasurer of the Commons all-party group on alternative and complementary medicine, said traditional Chinese medicine could be used alongside more conventional treatments.

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