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NCI Professional Judgment Budget Proposal

With cancer research that spans the continuum from basic science to survivorship, we have an incredible opportunity to greatly reduce the impact of cancer on people’s lives and end cancer as we know it. This budget proposal for fiscal year (FY) 2023 invests in the cutting-edge research, infrastructure, and training needed to harness these opportunities so that researchers better understand how to prevent and treat cancer.

This budget proposal advances progress toward NCI’s goal of increasing the payline—that is, the percentile of applications NCI can fund—for research project grants (RPGs) and expands opportunities for early-stage investigators (ESIs). The proposal also includes $50 million for the Childhood Cancer Data Initiative and $216 million for the final dedicated year of Cancer Moonshot℠ funding.

Beyond funding for RPGs, some of NCI’s other key investments include: the NCI-Designated Cancer Centers, the Specialized Programs of Research Excellence (SPOREs), and practice-changing clinical trial programs that enroll patients at over 2,500 academic and community sites across the country.

Across all our programs, NCI will make it a priority to address cancer disparities and grow a more diverse and inclusive cancer research workforce.

Table of the professional judgment budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2023. Dollars in millions. Fiscal Year 2021 NCI base appropriation: $6,365. Total budget increase, proposed allocation: $1,185. Fiscal year 2023 budget recommendation: $7,550. Fiscal year 2023 Cancer Moonshot funding: $216. Fiscal Year 2023 total: $7,766

Path to the 15th Percentile

Investigator-initiated research supported through RPGs, including R01 grants, is the source of some of the most innovative and transformative ideas in cancer research. This research has contributed to major advances, such as immunotherapies and targeted therapies for patients with cancer, and vaccines and drugs to prevent cancer. Therefore, the FY 2023 budget proposal aims to increase the payline percentile for investigator-initiated research.

The FY 2023 budget proposal will get NCI closer to achieving our goal to fund the top 15th percentile of R01 applications by 2025. If received, this budget could allow NCI to raise application paylines to the 13th percentile, or an increase of more than 60% compared with FY 2019. That translates to more than 300 additional awards for meritorious research applications. The proposal will also enable NCI to further sustain noncompeting RPGs at 100% of their committed levels.

NCI Research Project Grants Funding and R01 Paylines. Graphic chart showing: (1) upward dollar shift in the research project grants funding from 2017 to 2020 ($2.1 B to $2.7 B) and estimates for 2021 to 2025 ($2.8 B to $4.2B); and (2) changes in R01 payline (10th-11th percentile) for 2017 to 2021 and estimates for 2022 to 2025 (12th-15th percentile)

Dedicated support for ESIs attracts talented scientists early in their careers and ensures the future strength of the cancer research workforce. The FY 2023 proposal will enable ESI paylines to grow from the current 16th percentile to the 18th percentile.

In addition to career stage, NCI will continue its commitment to increase workforce diversity by supporting researchers from underrepresented groups who submit meritorious applications that are beyond the payline.

The proposed Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health (ARPA-H) would make a great partner to complement these investments and drive transformational innovation in cancer research at unprecedented scales. Because ARPA-H would likely operate differently than NCI’s current programs, robust and sustained investments in NCI’s budget are needed to continue to fuel the engine of investigator-initiated research necessary to advance new cancer prevention and treatment approaches.

Cancer Moonshot

In 2016, Congress took a bold, visionary step by enacting the 21st Century Cures Act, authorizing $1.8 billion for the Cancer Moonshot across 7 years. In addition to funding science that speeds the pace of discovery to prevent and treat cancer, the Cancer Moonshot also reduces research barriers, expands partnerships, and enhances collaboration. NCI reached the midpoint of the Cancer Moonshot in FY 2020, having invested more than $1 billion to support approximately 240 new research projects across more than 70 cancer research initiatives.

As funding for the Cancer Moonshot comes to a close at the end of FY 2023, one of its legacies will be an array of new infrastructure that supports ongoing and future research. Thanks to the Cancer Moonshot, new networks of researchers communicate, collaborate, share data, and have access to centralized resources. NCI plays a key role in aggregating and harmonizing cancer research data through the Cancer Research Data Commons, which includes imaging, genomic, and clinical trials data.

Cancer Moonshot investments have also enhanced the NCI Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program’s cancer surveillance efforts. That support has led to the development of artificial intelligence approaches to extract data from novel sources, such as pharmacy records, and the integration of this data with existing and newly collected data. These efforts increase the breadth and depth of information about people with cancer, their treatments, and outcomes. To sustain and leverage the infrastructure created by the Cancer Moonshot will require sustained investments beyond FY 2023.

Female Scientist in Lab

Highlighted Scientific Opportunities

NCI continually pursues new and emerging scientific opportunities that, with further investment, would catalyze additional progress in cancer research. Read about four areas of opportunity highlighted in the Fiscal Year 2023 Annual Plan and Budget Proposal: improving cancer clinical trials, designing drugs with computer-based approaches, preventing cancer with precision medicine, and understanding tumor dynamics.

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