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Global funding for cancer research between 2016 and 2020: a content analysis of public and philanthropic investments.

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McIntosh, Stuart A 
Alam, Fareeha 
Adams, Laura 
Boon, Ian S 
Callaghan, Jonathan 


BACKGROUND: Cancer is a leading cause of disease burden globally, with more than 19·3 million cases and 10 million deaths recorded in 2020. Research is crucial to understanding the determinants of cancer and the effects of interventions, and to improving outcomes. We aimed to analyse global patterns of public and philanthropic investment in cancer research. METHODS: In this content analysis, we searched the UberResearch Dimensions database and Cancer Research UK data for human cancer research funding awards from public and philanthropic funders between Jan 1, 2016, and Dec 31, 2020. Included award types were project and programme grants, fellowships, pump priming, and pilot projects. Awards focused on operational delivery of cancer care were excluded. Awards were categorised by cancer type, cross-cutting research theme, and research phase. Funding amount was compared with global burden of specific cancers, measured by disability-adjusted life-years, years lived with disability, and mortality using data from the Global Burden of Disease study. FINDINGS: We identified 66 388 awards with total investment of about US$24·5 billion in 2016-20. Investment decreased year-on-year, with the largest drop observed between 2019 and 2020. Pre-clinical research received 73·5% of the funding across the 5 years ($18 billion), phase 1-4 clinical trials received 7·4% ($1·8 billion), public health research received 9·4% ($2·3 billion), and cross-disciplinary research received 5·0% ($1·2 billion). General cancer research received the largest investment ($7·1 billion, 29·2% of the total funding). The most highly funded cancer types were breast cancer ($2·7 billion [11·2%]), haematological cancer ($2·3 billion [9·4%]), and brain cancer ($1·3 billion [5·5%]). Analysis by cross-cutting theme revealed that 41·2% of investment ($9·6 billion) went to cancer biology research, 19·6% ($4·6 billion) to drug treatment research, and 12·1% ($2·8 billion) to immuno-oncology. 1·4% of the total funding ($0·3 billion) was spent on surgery research, 2·8% ($0·7 billion) was spent on radiotherapy research, and 0·5% ($0·1 billion) was spent on global health studies. INTERPRETATION: Cancer research funding must be aligned with the global burden of cancer with more equitable funding for cancer research in low-income and middle-income countries (which account for 80% of cancer burden), both to support research relevant to these settings, and build research capacity within these countries. There is an urgent need to prioritise investment in surgery and radiotherapy research given their primacy in the treatment of many solid tumours. FUNDING: None.



Humans, Biomedical Research, Fund Raising, Financing, Organized, Investments, Brain Neoplasms, Global Health

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Lancet Oncol

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Elsevier BV