NCRI has published new figures showing the amount of money spent on cancer research by NCRI Partners in the 12 months leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The data shows that in the financial year 2019-20, NCRI Partners spent £669m on cancer research. This figure is expected to reduce by £100m for the year 2020-21, due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on charity partners.[1]

NCRI is currently collecting and analysing the data for the year 2020-21, which will show the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on cancer research funding.

Charities play a vital role in UK cancer research. The data shows that in the year 2019/20, charities accounted for 49% of publicly funded cancer research, a total of £327m.

The pre-pandemic figures show a 3% decrease in spending from 2018-19. However, the last five years have shown an upward trend in research spend.

 Figure 1: Total NCRI partners research spend per year. 2019-20 spend does not reflect the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic

The data shows a 7.5% increase in early detection, diagnosis and prognosis research—an area of strategic priority for NCRI. Prevention and cancer control, survivorship and outcomes are two research areas that also saw an increase in funding.

Figure 2: Spend by research type
CSO1: Biology, CSO2: Aetiology, CSO3: Prevention, CSO4: Early Detection, Diagnosis and Prognosis, CSO5: Treatment, CSO6: Cancer Control, Survivorship and Outcomes

Figure 3: Percentage change in spend by research type
CSO1: Biology, CSO2: Aetiology, CSO3: Prevention, CSO4: Early Detection, Diagnosis and Prognosis, CSO5: Treatment, CSO6: Cancer Control, Survivorship and Outcomes

NCRI has been collecting research funding data since 2002 to understand the distribution of funding. NCRI publish annual summaries of this data and periodic reports to identify trends and gaps in funding across a range of research areas.

While we are pleased that the past few years have shown a steady increase in cancer research funding by NCRI Partners, it is clear that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact. At this time, where funding is reduced, cancer research funders must work together to coordinate research, reducing duplication of effort, and identifying priority areas that will have maximum impact for patients. Strategic areas where NCRI Partners can work together include prevention, early detection, diagnosis and prognosis research and cancer control, survivorship and outcomes research.

Dr Iain Frame, CEO, NCRI

NCRI works with funders of all cancer types to maximise the value and benefits of cancer research for patients and the public. NCRI involves patients, carers and others affected by cancer (also known as ‘consumers’) at all stages of its activities, including developing clinical trials and high-quality NCRI data studies.

View the Cancer Research Database

[1] NCRI worked with ICRP to survey 13 charity partners in September 2020 and predicted a £167m reduction in research spend in the year 2020-21. The same charity partners were recently asked to complete a follow-up survey to reflect on the anticipated drop in research spend, the current predicted drop in research spending has been calculated as £100m.