Text Alternative for How American Cancer Society Research Funding Works

Our research goal is simple — find answers that help save lives. Our strategy for funding research is just as straightforward — fund the best science. We have spent more than $4.5 billion since 1946 doing just that — making us the largest private, nonprofit funder of cancer research in the United States. This investment has enabled our researchers and scientists throughout the country to make major cancer discoveries.

While the world has made significant strides in the fight against cancer, we know the war is far from over. That is why we remain dedicated to conducting and funding vital cancer research. 

We understand, though, that the cancer research landscape is sometimes confusing and people have a lot of questions about how our funding process works. We want to do everything we can to help you — donors, volunteers, patients, scientists, and the interested public — understand how we work, because we can’t work without you. The answers to some of the questions we get most often are provided below.
 

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.

Our research funding dollars come from you.
The 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 can raise each year, mostly by donations from individuals averaging $50. In 2014, about 17% of total dollars raised went towards cancer research. The majority of the rest of your donations help fund vital patient services.  

We use a portion of that money for full-time researchers.

There are currently more than 60 researchers employed to conduct cancer research full time at the American Cancer Society. These cancer experts conduct large-scale nationwide cancer prevention studies; produce the most widely-cited reports on cancer occurrence, causes, prevention, early detection, treatment, and survival; study the behavioral, psychosocial, and environmental factors related to cancer; and analyze the global economic and policy landscape impacting cancer.  

Most other funding goes to external researchers.
At any one point in time, we are supporting more than 800 researchers throughout the country and across cancer types. These extramural grants provide funding for what we call investigator-initiated projects. That means that researchers at any nonprofit research institution or university from across the country can apply for funding from us. Our job is to oversee a rigorous application review and selection process. This peer review process is actually conducted by external scientists, clinicians, and stakeholders who are volunteer members of the review panels set up by the American Cancer Society.     

External researchers can submit ideas for any cancer.

Except for in certain instances, we do not solicit applications for research projects about specific cancer types or topics. Researchers can submit proposals for any type of cancer research project including quality of life, cancer control, and patient support and survivorship. The bottom line is we fund the best ideas — across all aspects of cancer research — based upon the applications we receive.

But, we do get more applications in certain areas.
Because we allow researchers to submit proposals of their choosing, 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 can be because researchers perceive that there are more resources, or exciting new breakthroughs happening in a particular area that would provide them with greater opportunities to have an impact.   

We ensure research dollars go to the best science.
We get between 1,600 and 1,800 grant applications each year, but can fund only a portion of these. That is why we undertake the extensive scientific peer review process. We also focus on providing funding to early-career investigators — fostering the next generation of cancer research. This research funding strategy has helped support numerous important discoveries and some of the brightest researchers, including 47 Nobel Prize winners to date.

We are working to get more cancer research funded.
While the American Cancer Society conducts and funds cancer research, our advocacy affiliate, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), advocates for federal funding for cancer research.  
 

The American Cancer Society: The Official Sponsor Of Birthdays 

To learn more about our research funding, visit cancer.org

© 2015 American Cancer Society, Inc. All rights reserved.