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Investments in cancer research awarded to UK institutions and the global burden of cancer 2000-2013: a systematic analysis

20 Apr 2017


To systematically categorise cancer research investment awarded to United Kingdom (UK) institutions in the period 2000–2013 and to estimate research investment relative to disease burden as measured by mortality, disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) and years lived with disability (YLDs).


Systematic analysis of all open-access data.

Setting and participants

Public and philanthropic funding to all UK cancer research institutions, 2000–2013.

Main outcome measures

Number and financial value of cancer research investments reported in 2013 UK pounds (UK£). Mortality, DALYs and YLDs data were acquired from the Global Burden of Disease Study. A compound metric was adapted to estimate research investment relative to disease burden as measured by mortality, DALYs and YLDs.


We identified 4299 funded studies with a total research investment of £2.4 billion. The highest fundings by anatomical sites were haematological, breast, prostate, colorectal and ovarian cancers. Relative to disease burden as determined by a compound metric combining mortality, DALYs and YLDs, gender-specific cancers were found to be highest funded—the five sites that received the most funding were prostate, ovarian, breast, mesothelioma and testicular cancer; the least well-funded sites were liver, thyroid, lung, upper gastrointestinal (GI) and bladder. Preclinical science accounted for 66.2% of award numbers and 62.2% of all funding. The top five areas of primary research focus by funding were pathogenesis, drug therapy, diagnostic, screening and monitoring, women's health and immunology. The largest individual funder was the Medical Research Council. In combination, the five lowest funded site-specific cancers relative to disease burden account for 47.9%, 44.3% and 20.4% of worldwide cancer mortality, DALYs and YLDs.


Research funding for cancer is not allocated according to relative disease burden. These findings are in line with earlier published studies. Funding agencies and industry should openly document their research investments to improve better targeting of research investment.

Click here to view the full article which appeared in BMJ Open