Suneel D. Kamath, Yanwen Chen

Disparities in National Cancer Institute and Nonprofit Organization Funding Disproportionately Affect Cancers With Higher Incidence Among Black Patients and Higher Mortality Rates

  • Oncology (nursing)
  • Health Policy
  • Oncology

PURPOSE National Cancer Institute (NCI) and nonprofit organization (NPO) funding is critical for research and advocacy but may not be equitable across cancers. METHODS This study evaluated funding from the NCI and NPOs supporting lung, breast, colorectal, pancreatic, hepatobiliary, prostate, ovarian, cervical and endometrial cancers, leukemia, lymphoma, and melanoma from 2015 to 2018. The primary objectives were to assess for funding disparities across different cancers compared with their incidence and mortality and across racial groups. We also determined if underfunding correlates with fewer clinical trials. Correlations between funding for each cancer and its incidence, mortality, and number of clinical trials were analyzed using descriptive statistics and Pearson correlation coefficients (CCs). RESULTS Diseases with the largest combined NCI and NPO funding were breast cancer ($3.75 billion in US dollars [USD]) and leukemia ($1.99 billion USD). Those with the least funding were endometrial ($94 million USD), cervical ($292 million USD), and hepatobiliary cancers ($348 million USD). Disease-specific funding correlated well with incidence but correlated poorly with mortality (Pearson CCs, 0.74; P = .006 and .30, P = .346, respectively). Breast cancer, leukemia, and lymphoma were well-funded while colorectal, lung, hepatobiliary and uterine cancers were underfunded. Higher incidence among Black patients correlated with underfunding. The amount of funding for a particular cancer correlated strongly with the number of clinical trials for that disease (Pearson CC, 0.91; P < .0001). CONCLUSION Many cancers with high incidence and mortality rates are underfunded. Cancers that affect Black patients at higher rates are also underfunded. Underfunding strongly correlates with fewer clinical trials, which could impede future advances in underfunded cancers.

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