Skip to main content
An official website of the United States government

Strategic Planning at NCI

Expert advisors on the National Cancer Advisory Board and Cancer Moonshot Blue Ribbon Panel (pictured here), ensure that NCI goals and activities are grounded in the best science.

Credit: National Cancer Institute

NCI’s strategy to advance progress against cancer is based on careful planning, coordination, collaboration, and fiscal stewardship of federal resources. NCI is committed to funding the highest-priority scientific discoveries to prevent more cancers and improve the lives of all those who have been affected by the disease. NCI’s strategic planning aligns with both the NIH and NCI missions, as well as NCI’s scientific priorities.

Mission and Goals

NCI’s mission is to lead, conduct, and support cancer research across the nation to advance scientific knowledge and help all people live longer, healthier lives. To deliver on this mission, NCI has established the following goals:

  • Advance and disseminate knowledge across the cancer continuum by conducting and supporting research nationally and internationally
  • Train the next generation of cancer researchers and strengthen the cancer workforce
  • Advance biomedical technology and spark innovation
  • Facilitate collaboration and create meaningful partnerships to accelerate progress against cancer

Scientific Priorities

NCI prepares a Professional Judgment Budget Proposal for the President and Congress. The plan describes NCI’s scientific priorities and promising opportunities in the following areas:

  • Understanding the Mechanisms of Cancer
  • Preventing Cancer
  • Detecting and Diagnosing Cancer
  • Treating Cancer
  • Advancing Public Health in Cancer
  • Strengthening the Cancer Research Enterprise: Workforce and Infrastructure

NCI is also committed to preventing, understanding, and mitigating cancer disparities, which is reflected across our entire research portfolio.

Planning Process

Cancer is not one disease but hundreds of diseases. This complexity necessitates planning on many levels to make continued progress. NCI sets scientific priorities to build on the progress that has been made in long-established areas of research and to seize new opportunities in emerging areas of science.

Idea Generation and Program Development

Research begins with ideas. A large portion of NCI’s budget funds research to explore ideas from researchers in the form of investigator-initiated research proposals. This funding supports highly skilled scientists who have proposed research projects based on their area of expertise. Much of the progress we have made against cancer to date had its origins in investigator-initiated research.

Ideas that drive cancer research also come from NCI leadership, advisory board and committee members, staff, and the public. These ideas are generated in numerous ways. They may come from identifying opportunities in emerging areas and recognizing unmet needs and research gaps. NCI monitors and analyzes cancer research activities in the United States and around the world. NCI also responds to public health needs, requests from Congress, and special initiatives such as the Cancer MoonshotSM. These activities culminate in targeted funding opportunities to develop new research areas and programs.

Prioritization and Vetting

All requests for research funding undergo rigorous peer review. Expert scientists outside of NCI evaluate research proposals on factors such as scientific merit, potential impact, and likelihood of success. Research proposals may be further evaluated by NCI leadership or NCI advisory boards to consider additional factors, such as public health significance, scientific novelty, alignment with NCI’s scientific priorities, and overall representation of the research topic within the NCI portfolio.

A large portion of the NCI budget supports basic research that applies to many types of cancer. Support of basic research builds the foundation of knowledge that is essential to developing new ways to prevent, detect, diagnose, and treat cancer.

NCI does not make decisions about funding based on predetermined targets for a specific cancer type or research category.

Scientific Stewardship

NCI is responsible for ensuring that the nation's investment in cancer research has maximum impact, which is why support for the best science underpins everything the institute does. NCI's commitment to scientific stewardship includes:

Using a Rigorous and Accountable Funding Process

NCI conducts a rigorous and accountable funding process to distribute the funds entrusted to the institute. NCI supports the most meritorious science as determined by peer review. Learn more about the NCI grants review process.

Training the Next Generation of Researchers

NCI is committed to sustaining the cancer research workforce through a variety of programs that support individuals at every career stage, from middle and high school students to established investigators.

The institute is also committed to creating a diverse workforce of individuals from backgrounds that are traditionally underrepresented in cancer research.

  • Posted:

If you would like to reproduce some or all of this content, see Reuse of NCI Information for guidance about copyright and permissions. In the case of permitted digital reproduction, please credit the National Cancer Institute as the source and link to the original NCI product using the original product's title; e.g., “Strategic Planning at NCI was originally published by the National Cancer Institute.”