Two British charities put aside years of rivalry yesterday to announce a merger that will create the biggest independent cancer research organisation in the world.

The new body, to be called Cancer Research UK, will have an annual scientific budget of £130m to fund 3,000 doctors and researchers.

The Cancer Research Campaign (CRC) and Imperial Cancer Research Fund (ICRF) said that combining their strengths would ensure that new treatments reached patients faster.

It would also pool resources at a time when frontline medical science is becoming increasingly expensive.

The two charities began as a single organisation, the Cancer Research Fund, which was founded in 1902 by the royal colleges of surgeons and physicians. But in 1923 a group of doctors, unhappy that some of the charity's work lacked relevance for patients, broke away to form a new charity.

In 1970 this body was renamed the CRC. Despite increasing collaboration in research, Professor Gordon McVie, director general of the CRC, accepted the two charities still suffered from unhealthy competition and duplication.

He said: "There's no shred of doubt that we have not been helpful to one another by competing for star scientists and clinicians."

The CRC has specialised in the development of anti-cancer drugs and acted as a major funder of patient trials, while ICRF has been at the forefront of exploratory science.

Sir Paul Nurse, director general of the ICRF who has just won the Nobel Prize for Medicine for his work on the life cycle of the cell, said the merger would have enormous benefits for the fight against cancer.

He said: "Combining forces will give us the impetus to turn the potential of the genetic revolution into the reality of new drugs and treatments and better ways to prevent the disease."

The merger, to be finalised in early February, means the loss of about 130 jobs for support staff.

But the new charity intends to recruit more top scientists, possibly from abroad, and exploit the chance to raise more funds, particularly from the corporate sector.

Baroness Hayman, a former health minister who will chair Cancer Research UK, said: "This charity is born out of a shared vision to cure cancer faster through closer collaboration and partnership."

Cancer is Britain's biggest killer, with more than 120,000 victims a year.

Messages of support came from the Prime Minister Tony Blair and Nelson Mandela. Mr Blair said the new charity would "bring about vital improvements to the lives of cancer patients and their families". The former South African president, who is being treated for prostate cancer, described the merger as a "momentous step" that would benefit patients across the globe.

The merger was supported by the Charity Commission which said that many charities got better results, and gave better value by pooling their efforts.

John Stoker, the chief commissioner, said: "The step that the Cancer Research Campaign and Imperial Cancer Research Fund have taken to join forces is brave and far sighted and looks like excellent news for cancer research. It will hopefully encourage all charities to consider whether they can work better for beneficiaries by co-operating in a variety of ways, including mergers with others in appropriate cases."