A cross-sectional analysis of oncology nonprofit organizations revealed a disconnect between the burden of a particular cancer type and the amount of funding that cancer type received, indicating some relatively common cancers may be underfunded. The findings were recently published in the Journal of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network.1
The analysis included 119 cancer-specific nonprofit organizations, each with an annual revenue of more than $5 million and collective annual revenue for 2015 of nearly $6 billion. The total revenue from a nonprofit organization dedicated toward funding a specific cancer type was compared with 3 cancer burden metrics: annual incidence, mortality, and person-years of life lost (PYLL).
The most annual revenue — approximately one-third —went toward breast cancer ($460 million), followed by leukemia ($201 million), pediatric cancers ($177 million), and lymphoma ($145 million). In relation to their incidence, mortality, and PYLL, these 4 cancer types were considered “well funded.”
Conversely, gastrointestinal, gynecologic, brain, and lung cancers were identified as “poorly funded” cancer types relative to their 3 burden metrics. According to the literature, stigmatized behaviors, such as smoking or alcohol consumption, were associated with some of these “poorly funded” cancer types — specifically lung, esophageal, liver, and cervical cancers — suggesting that the stigma of a disease may hinder funding.
Overall, the correlation between cancer burden and amount of funding was weak or nonexistent, as determined by the Pearson correlation coefficients between annual incidence (0.61), mortality (0.16), and PYLL (0.16) and the annual revenue.
“The goal of our study was not to divert funding away from any disease but rather to educate the public and augment charitable funding for diseases that do not receive proportionate support,” the study authors wrote. “Well-funded NPOs [nonprofit organizations] should be applauded for their successes and could collaborate with other organizations to improve funding.”
Kamath SD, Kircher SM, Benson AB. Comparison of cancer burden and nonprofit organization funding reveals disparities in funding across cancer types. J Natl Compr Canc Netw. 2019;17(7):849-854.