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.

Our research funding dollars come from you.
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 by donations from individuals averaging $50. In 2016, about 16% of total dollars raised went toward cancer research. The majority of the rest of your donations help fund vital patient services and programs.

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 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 researchers at any nonprofit research institution or university nationwide 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 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 receive more than 1,300 grant applications each year, but can fund only about 260 of them. That is why we conduct an 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 SM, advocates for federal funding for research.

©2014 American Cancer Society, Inc. No. 013075 Rev. 7/17

cancer.org | 1.800.227.2345