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Fact Sheet

  • Reviewed: 08/23/2013

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Cancer Research Funding

Key Points

  • The National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Health and Human Services, is the Nation’s principal agency for cancer research and coordinates the National Cancer Program.
  • As a federal agency, NCI receives its funds from Congress.
  • In recent years, NCI’s budget has been relatively flat, averaging approximately $4.9 billion per year over the past 6 years.
  • Other federal agencies, state, and local governments, voluntary organizations, private institutions, and industry spend substantial amounts of money on cancer-related research.
  1. What is the National Cancer Institute (NCI), and what is its role in supporting cancer research?

    NCI is one of the 27 Institutes and Centers that form the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which is part of the Department of Health and Human Services. In the National Cancer Institute Act of 1937, NCI was established as the Nation’s principal agency for cancer research. In the National Cancer Act of 1971, NCI was further charged with coordinating the National Cancer Program.

    As a federal agency, NCI receives its funds from Congress. These funds support research at the Institute’s headquarters in Bethesda, MD, and in laboratories and medical centers throughout the United States and in other countries.

    The cancer research program coordinated by NCI investigates the causes, prevention, detection, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer through various research projects and clinical trials. Information about cancer research projects supported by NCI in the United States and Canada can be found in the NCI Funded Research Portfolio.

  2. How is NCI's budget determined?

    Overall budget proposals for federal government spending—commonly known as President’s Budget proposals—are formulated by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). As part of this process, NCI and the other NIH Institutes and Centers submit budget documents to OMB. President’s Budget proposals are submitted to Congress each year in early February and reflect the Administration’s budget and management priorities for the next fiscal year, which begins on the following October 1. (The federal government’s fiscal year extends from October 1 through September 30.) Congress considers the proposals and then recommends appropriations for all federal government agencies. Final appropriation amounts must be approved by both the House of Representatives and the Senate and signed by the President to be enacted into law.

    In the National Cancer Act of 1971, NCI was given the authority to prepare and submit an additional annual budget proposal directly to the President for review and transmittal to Congress. This authority is unique to NCI, and the budget proposal created in response to it is often referred to as the “NCI Professional Judgment Budget.” The NCI Professional Judgment Budget is submitted to the President before the President’s Budget proposal is submitted to Congress and may be considered by OMB in preparing the President’s Budget proposal.

    NCI Professional Judgment Budgets describe in detail the optimum amount of funding needed to make the most rapid progress against cancer and to provide NCI with the resources necessary to lead the National Cancer Program. Typically, the President’s Budget proposal for NCI is less than the amount proposed in the NCI Professional Judgment Budget.

  3. What was NCI’s budget for Fiscal Year (FY) 2013? How has the budget changed in recent years?

    NCI’s budget for FY 2013 was $4.8 billion. Overall, NCI’s budget has been relatively flat in recent years. During the period from 2005 through 2013, the NCI budget averaged $4.9 billion per year.

    NCI’s FY 2013 appropriation reflects about a $293 million decrease from FY 2012. This decrease is attributable in large part to sequestration (5.1 percent reduction), with the remainder due to transfers to the Department of Health and Human Services to support various departmental obligations.

  4. How much does NCI spend each year on research for specific types of cancer?

    The following table shows NCI spending in FY 2010, 2011, and 2012 for the 10 most common types of cancer in the United States, based on 2012 incidence estimates (and excluding basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers).* The cancers are listed in decreasing order of incidence (i.e., from the highest number of new cases to the lowest).

    *Source of spending data: NCI Office of Budget and Finance (OBF).

    Cancer Type2010 Spending
    (in millions)
    2011 Spending
    (in millions)
    2012 Spending
    (in millions)
    Lung$281.9$296.8$314.6
    Prostate300.5288.3265.1
    Breast631.2625.1602.7
    Colorectal270.4265.1256.3
    Bladder22.620.623.4
    Melanoma102.3115.6121.2
    Non-Hodgkin
    Lymphoma
    122.4126.4119.5
    Kidney44.646.249.0
    Thyroid15.616.216.5
    Endometrial
    (Uterine)
    14.215.919.1
    Information about funding for other types of cancer can be found in the NCI Funded Research Portfolio or the NCI Annual Fact Book. Additional information about NCI's budget is available on OBF's website. 

  5. Do other federal government agencies fund cancer research?

    Yes. Other federal government agencies, including other NIH Institutes and Centers, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Department of Defense, fund cancer research. In addition, state and local governments, voluntary organizations, private institutions, and corporations spend substantial amounts of money on cancer-related research.

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