Text Alternative for How American Cancer Society Research Funding Works

Fund the best science. Find answers that help save lives.

Here are answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about our research funding process.

How do we get money? How much do we spend on research? 
The American Cancer Society is not an endowed organization that has been underwritten in perpetuity by a single wealthy benefactor, individual, family, or corporation. We are funded primarily from the money we raise each year, mostly from individual donations, like yours. In 2018, $147.9 million went toward cancer research. Your donations also support vital patient services and programs.

Does the American Cancer Society conduct its own research? 
Yes. We have a robust Intramural Research department with more than 50 full-time researchers on staff. These experts:

  • Conduct large-scale, nationwide cancer prevention studies
  • Study the behavioral, psychosocial, and environmental factors related to cancer
  • Produce the most widely cited reports on cancer occurrence, cause, prevention, early detection, treatment, and survival
  • Analyze the global economic and policy landscape that impacts cancer

What other cancer research do we fund?
In addition to Intramural (in-house) research, our Extramural Research department supports about 800 researchers across the country for studies involving many types of cancer. We focus on providing funds to early-career investigators to foster the next generation of cancer research. We do this with extramural grants. Researchers at any nonprofit research institution or university in the United States can apply for funding from us. All grant applications go through a rigorous review and selection process.

Do we fund research for all types of cancer?
Yes. Researchers can submit grant proposals for any type of cancer as well as for any type of research. They may focus on how to improve quality of life for people living with cancer, the causes of cancer, and how best to prevent, detect, and treat cancer. In certain instances, we  solicit grant applications for research projects about specific types of cancer or specific topics. However, the bottom line is, we fund the best ideas from the applications we receive across all aspects of cancer research and for any type of cancer. 

Do we get more grant applications in certain areas?
Sometimes. Because we allow researchers to choose the topic for their grant proposals, the number of applications we get for each cancer type is largely reflective of the number of researchers who are working in that area. And, certain areas of cancer research draw more researchers than others. This may be because researchers perceive that one area has more resources or that working on an exciting new breakthrough could give them a greater chance to have a significant impact.

How do we know which research applications are the best?
Each grant application goes through an extensive scientific peer-review process. Our peer-review committees include third-party scientists, clinicians, and volunteer members called stakeholders. This research funding strategy has helped support numerous important discoveries and some of the brightest researchers, including 49 Nobel Prize winners to date.

How much more funding do we need?
We've invested more than $4.9 billion in cancer research since 1946. We currently support more than 750 active grants with over $400 million in investments. No single nongovernmental, not-for-profit organization in the US has invested more to find the causes and cures of cancer than the American Cancer Society. But there's still much more to do.

About 1,300 new research grant requests come in each year. Plus, our peer review committees always recommend that more applications be funded than we can grant. We often have about 150 “outstanding” applications for potentially life-saving research projects that are waiting to be funded.

©2014 American Cancer Society, Inc. No. 013075 Rev. 10/18

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