FAQs: Applying for a Research Grant from the American Cancer Society

What types of research does the American Cancer Society fund?

The American Cancer Society (ACS) funds a wide range of investigator-initiated cancer research. We believe that the best science will provide the greatest benefit. That’s why the goal of our extramural grant program is to fund the most creative, innovative, and promising projects from the applications we receive, for any type of cancer and within any part of the research continuum. That means researchers may submit proposals for any type of cancer research project, and most research grant mechanisms can accept applications associated with any of the Extramural Research program areas. Our portfolio reflects this diverse scope

What are the funding rates for ACS grants?

The funding rate represents the percentage of individual applicants who are funded out of the entire applicant pool in a given year. ACS calculates funding rates for each type of grant (the grant mechanism). For the past 4 years, the funding rates for our main grant types have been:

Grant Mechanism
Research Scholar Grants
12.4% 17.2% 14.8% 15.0%
Postdoctoral Fellowships
17.0% 17.7% 21.1% 17.8%
Pilot and Exploratory Projects in Palliative Care
11.1% 16.0% 14.3% 22.2%
Clinician Scientist Development Grant* N/A N/A N/A 9.5%

*Introduced in the Spring 2018 funding cycle

How does the ACS help early-career scientists secure funding for cancer research?

At the American Cancer Society, we’ve built the reputation for giving a great deal of support to grant applicants through feedback, information sharing, and opportunities to resubmit applications. That’s a reputation we’re proud of and committed to maintaining. Here’s an overview of what we provide for every applicant:

  • Detailed written critiques from 2 scientific reviewers
  • The opportunity to schedule a one-on-one phone meeting (using convenient scheduling software) with the associated ACS scientific director. This call allows applicants to gain additional insights about their written critiques, the peer review process, and strategies and tips about resubmitting a grant. The almost 75% of applicants who make this call consider it valuable to their career development.
  • Virtual and face-to-face grantsmanship activities facilitated by ACS scientific directors.
  • Our commitment to helping early-career researchers secure funding, whether it’s through the ACS and/or another funding source.

Besides the funding, what other benefits are there from receiving an ACS grant?

The perks of being an ACS grantee are numerous, extend beyond the scientific community, and continue during the grant term and long after it ends.

  • The biennial Harry and Elsa Jiler American Cancer Society Professor and Fellows Conference offers ACS early-stage researchers the opportunity to interact with prestigious, senior cancer experts; share cutting-edge research; foster new collaborations; and hone career-development skills.
  • The Mission Boost Grant is only awarded to select current and past ACS grantees specifically for the translation of their research to human testing.
  • Diverse opportunities to engage in the community including sharing their research and aspirations with patients, families, and donors.
  • Grantees are invited to join TheoryLab, our online researcher community, which opens up opportunities for collaboration as well as additional funding opportunities. Grantees can also share their work with the world via the TheoryLab podcast

Is it true that it requires 3 submissions to get an ACS Research Scholar Grant?

No. However, as expected for early-career investigators entering a competitive funding arena, few applications are funded on the first submission. ACS staff dedicate significant time and energy to helping investigators improve grantsmanship, and our numbers clearly convey a mutually beneficial return on that investment, as shown from these statistics.  

Of all the RSGs awarded during 2014 to 2018:

  • 13.6% were funded on their initial submission
  • 37.8% were funded on their first resubmission
  • 48.5% were funded on their second (final) resubmission
  • 96% of applications funded on their 2nd resubmissions were scored "Outstanding" by the Peer Review Committee (a score ranging from 1.0 to 1.5) compared to 10% of the projects' initial submissions.