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Some of Most Common, Deadly Cancers Get the Least Research Money

WEDNESDAY, July 24, 2019 (HealthDay News) -- Many of the most common or deadliest cancers receive the least research funding from nonprofits, a new study finds.

"The goal of this study is not to divert funds away from cancers that are well-supported, but rather expand funding for other cancers that aren't getting enough support currently," said corresponding author Dr. Suneel Kamath.

"These are all deadly and life-altering diseases that deserve our attention and support," said Kamath, who was chief fellow in hematology and oncology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago when the study was conducted.

Researchers analyzed data on all U.S. nonprofits that support any type of cancer research and made at least $5 million in revenue in 2015.

The 119 organizations had a total of nearly $6 billion in revenue that year. Most of this ($4.6 billion) went to general cancer charities such as the American Cancer Society, with no emphasis on one type of cancer.

To determine if funding levels for each type of cancer relate to how common or deadly it is, Kamath and his colleagues compared the amount of money the groups gave for each type of cancer with the number of new cases, number of deaths and number of years of life lost.

They found that colon, endometrial, liver and bile duct, cervical, ovarian, pancreatic and lung cancers were all poorly funded compared to how common they are and how many deaths they cause.

Breast cancer, leukemia, lymphoma and pediatric cancers were all well-funded in relation to their impact.

The researchers also found that cancers associated with stigmatized behaviors -- such as lung cancer with smoking or liver cancer with drinking -- and "embarrassing" cancers were all poorly funded.

"Shame and discomfort with talking about our bowels and 'private parts' may be reducing funding for diseases like colon or endometrial cancer," Kamath said in a university news release.

The findings were published recently in the Journal of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network.

Nonprofit organizations play an important role in funding cancer research and influencing health policy. Underfunding of common and deadly cancers could reduce research, drug development and the number of drug approvals by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for those cancers, according to the researchers.

More information

The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more on cancer research.

SOURCE: Northwestern University, news release, July 18, 2019

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