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Leading Progress against Cancer: NCI’s Fiscal Year 2025 Professional Judgment Budget Proposal

, by Director, Center for Research Strategy, Dr. Diane Palmieri

Headshot of Diane Palmieri

Diane Palmieri, Ph.D.

Director, Center for Research Strategy 

Credit: National Cancer Institute

The National Cancer Institute Fiscal Year 2025 Professional Judgment Budget Proposal highlights how, with optimal funding, NCI will support cancer research, train future cancer researchers, and expand and maintain research infrastructure to achieve the goal of ending cancer as we know it for all. In this edition, Dr. Diane Palmieri discusses NCI’s proposal to increase funding to support more meritorious cancer research and spotlights one of the five scientific opportunities, the Cancer Research Data Ecosystem, where increased funding will spur advances.

The future holds great potential for changing the meaning of cancer for all people as we work toward a 50% decrease in age-adjusted cancer death rates by 2047. This year’s Professional Judgment Budget Proposal provides NCI’s assessment of the funding needed in fiscal year 2025 (FY25) to take advantage of that unprecedented potential and continue to make progress against cancer.

NCI is the largest funder of cancer research in the world. Increases to NCI’s budget in recent years have allowed us to increase the nation’s investment in investigator-initiated research and fund more R01 grant applications. This type of foundational discovery research fuels advances to help people with cancer and those at risk for the disease.

However, we have too often not been able to support many opportunities that could help us better understand, prevent, detect, and treat cancer. That’s because reduced buying power has prohibited NCI from funding a substantial proportion of the meritorious applications we receive each year. As shown in the FY25 budget proposal, NCI’s buying power to support cancer research, including clinical trials and critical infrastructure, is 13% less in 2023 than it was in 2003. This means, in today’s dollars, we can fund $1.1 billion less cancer research now than we could 20 years ago.

The approximately $11.5 billion budget proposed for FY25 would eliminate this deficit and allow NCI to wholly fund research across the cancer continuum. This amount includes needed investments in training the next generation of cancer researchers, including continued efforts to improve the diversity of the research workforce, and supporting critical research infrastructure. It would also provide the funds needed to reach an R01 payline of the 15th percentile and accelerate progress by taking advantage of more meritorious ideas from the research community.

Woman writing in a notebook in front of two computer monitors with graphs on them.

What specific advances might be spurred with a robust budget increase? We’re optimistic about the myriad opportunities before us, five of which are highlighted in this year’s Professional Judgment Budget Proposal.

I’d like to focus on one of those that has the potential to harness the power of cancer research data and support all of cancer research and cancer care: the opportunity to build and maintain a Cancer Research Data Ecosystem. Such an ecosystem would collect, integrate, and share data from a broad range of sources to maximize the utility of data from every laboratory experiment, every clinical trial, and every patient experience.

As the volume and types of cancer data rapidly grow, we must not delay the opportunity to leverage these data; we must make the data accessible to all and provide tools to use them. A Cancer Research Data Ecosystem has the potential to propel all the highlighted opportunities forward by: integrating data collected from patients through symptom science research and clinical trials, providing a centralized environmental exposure data repository linking exposure data to cohort and genetic data, and creating tools to analyze human tumor atlas data to increase our understanding of cancer metastasis so that we can more effectively intervene in this deadly process.

In addition to these five scientific opportunities, the FY25 Professional Judgment Budget Proposal also highlights the story of Kellie, a person with lung cancer who is participating in an NCI-sponsored clinical trial through the NCI Community Oncology Research Program (NCORP). Kellie lives in a small rural town hundreds of miles from an NCI-Designated Cancer Center but, because of NCORP, she is able to participate and receive treatment in the trial close to her home, eliminating the burden of long-distance travel. This nationwide network brings cancer clinical trials and cancer care delivery studies to people in their own communities, making this research more representative of the US population and more accessible for all.

NCI-supported cancer research infrastructure including a national data ecosystem, clinical trial networks, biorepositories, and cancer centers are essential components of NCI’s portfolio. These investments, coupled with training programs that fund students and research fellows, support investigator-initiated and other types of research projects that will lead to needed breakthroughs.

In short, the many components of the cancer research enterprise supported by NCI are interconnected. They must be supported and implemented simultaneously to deliver research findings and other evidence-based knowledge into clinical practice to improve outcomes for all people with cancer and those at risk for the disease.

The bottom line: The FY25 Professional Judgment Budget Proposal highlights how, with optimal funding, NCI will support cancer research, train future cancer researchers, and expand and maintain research infrastructure to achieve the goal of ending cancer as we know it for all.

We encourage you to read and share the budget proposal with colleagues, friends, and others who may find it useful.

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