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Launch of second European Cancer Research Funding survey

Brussels: The second European survey [1] analysing how cancer research is funded shows that contrary to public perception Europe is a major contributor to the global cancer research effort.

Prof Richard Sullivan, chair of the European Cancer Research Managers Forum (ECRM), launched the organisations second survey, which looks at the overall 3.2 billion cancer research spend for 2004, at the European Parliament today (Tuesday 18 September).

Contrary to public perception, a phenomenal amount of cancer research is carried out in Europe, evidenced by the huge amount of cancer research papers being published here, said Prof Sullivan. This is important, as many policy makers assume the global funding for cancer research is overwhelmingly concentrated in the USA. Our data indicate that this is not true and the effort is a truly global one. The possibilities for fruitful partnerships not only exist, but should be the basis for future long-term policy. We should not fail next generations in losing this opportunity.

He stressed that with over 100 major funders in both Europe and the USA, who each spend more than 1 million a year on cancer research, as well as a number of important representational bodies, there has never been such a golden opportunity for a more co-operative approach in the field, particularly towards the funding of trans-national research programmes.

Prof Sullivan added that whilst global levels of cancer research expenditure on cancer research as a percentage of GDP continue to show differences between the USA and Europe, this gap has substantially narrowed.

A major part of this survey has been its ability to estimate the cancer research funding flowing through national healthcare and university systems in Europe, but there has also been a real increase in some Member State funding whilst the USA shrinks in real terms.

However Prof Sullivan made an urgent plea for less bureaucracy which he says is stifling cancer research. The impact of regulatory policy on research funding and productivity remains, as it was for the first survey, a critical issue for all countries.

Over the last decade the fashion for ever increasing regulation across all domains clinical trials, healthcare data, human tissue has led to an undesirable increase in the unit cost of research in the absence of any tangible social benefit from many of these regulations.

Good research governance is essential but bureaucracy is absorbing too much of the global investment in cancer research. Bureaucracy and over-management remain constant dangers to progress. Funding organisations and government policy makers must guard against these dangers and, where necessary, simplify and harmonise.

Since the first survey published two years ago, nearly 60% of Member States have increased their funding of cancer research in real terms, yet 30% have not, said Prof. Sullivan. Indeed the major policy issue is the real differences in cancer research investment between the Member States themselves, rather than the prevailing gaps in cancer research funding between Europe and the USA, which have been a driving force for EU policy-making to date.

He continued by making a special plea to those EU countries which lag behind the 15 Member States which carry out the majority of the research.

It is clear that some governments are still failing to appropriately support cancer research. For these countries the need for specific policy actions to ensure a limited core of high quality research within their institutions - relative to their R&D budgets - is crucial if these Member States have aspirations to become major locations for cancer research in the future, he added.

The report also attempts, for the first time, to estimate the direct annual spend of the major pharmaceutical companies involved in cancer research.

We estimate the top pharmaceutical companies spend some 3,095 million, or 22% of the estimated annual global spend on cancer research. Traditionally Europe has been considered weak in attracting industry R&D funding, however when one considers the geographical origin of pharmaceutical publications, Europe is very much an equal partner with the USA in cancer research. Indeed Europe attracts some 45.9% of (all disease) pharmaceutical R&D expenditure, he said.

The survey:

  • identified 155 non-commercial (public) funding organisations in Europe spending 1,971 million on the direct funding [2] of cancer research compared to 5,158 million by the USA. In Europe this represents a 38% increase since the last survey whereas funding in the USA has remained relatively static;
  • revealed the average spend per capita across Europe was 3.42, a 34% increase since the 2005 survey and that USA per capita spend was 17.61, five times greater than Europe yet in 2005 this gap was seven times greater;
  • found Europe has, in addition 1,364 million flowing through national healthcare systems and universities to support cancer research compared to 109 million in the USA;
  • shows Europe and the USA are evenly matched for cancer research outputs (volume of cancer research publications) with 52% and 48% of the output, and 1.3 versus 1.4 papers per billion euro GDP;
  • estimated that global public sector cancer research funding (including indirect sources [3]) was 14,030 million.
  • found public cancer research spend in Europe is evenly balanced between charitable and government organisations with 47% and 53% of spend, respectively. In comparison, USA government organisations are the dominant source of cancer research funding with 96% of all funds coming from ten federal funders;
  • found the majority of European spend (80%) from charitable organisations is concentrated in just 14 organisations compared to 29 government funders and the majority of cancer research funding is raised and spent within 15 EU Member States;
  • shows direct cancer research investment by funding organisations as a percentage of GDP and per capita remained higher in the USA compared to Europe, (three times higher percentage of GDP and five times higher per capita in the USA compared to Europe.) However, adding in the funding that flows through national healthcare and university systems, this gap narrows considerably (0.03% GDP Europe compared to 0.06% USA);
  • found both Europe, and to a lesser extent USA, published research in cancer has become more clinical in the last eight years. Over this same period there has been a shift in 24 of the 31 countries in Europe towards more clinical research, but with some notable exceptions (Spain and Denmark) producing more basic research outputs.


Contact: Josie Bate
European Cancer Research Managers Forum

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