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Overview of American Cancer Society Sponsored Research

  • The American Cancer Society has a world-renowned research program that uniquely supports innovative and high-impact research by beginning scientists at leading hospitals and universities nationwide.
  • Since 1946, the American Cancer Society has invested over $4.8 billion in cancer research and has been involved in most of the major cancer research breakthroughs of the 20th and 21st centuries.
  • The American Cancer Society is the largest private funder of cancer research in the United States.
  • As of January 2019, the American Cancer Society (ACS) has amost $420 million invested in 760 active research grants.
  • Ninety-five percent of the American Cancer Society research budget goes directly to research, with only five percent allocated for operating costs.
  • The American Cancer Society has funded the work of 47 researchers who went on to win the Nobel Prize, the highest accolade of scientific achievement.

Research Progress is Real!
Examples of specific, life-saving advances made possible through American Cancer Society research:


  • Identification of the significant link between diet and cancer
  • Use of harmless viral particles in the development of cervical cancer vaccines
  • Development of the critical link between smoking and lung cancer
  • Discovery of genes for inherited breast and colon cancer


  • Development of mammography to screen for breast cancer
  • Development of the prostate specific antigen (PSA) test for early detection of prostate cancer
  • Development of the PAP smear to detect cervical cancer


  • Dramatically increased the five-year survival rate for childhood leukemia to over 80%
  • Development of Gleevec which offers a new approach in treating cancer (biotherapy) by targeting a genetic defect with a drug that does not harm normal cells
  • Use of hormonal therapy to treat prostate cancer
  • Development of lifesaving breast cancer drugs, such as Tamoxifen and Herceptin
  • Development of 5-FU (chemotherapy) for treatment of colon cancer
  • Discovery of cancer-causing oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes
  • Use of small molecule inhibitors for treatment of chronic myeloid leukemia
  • Proof that lumpectomy plus radiation, compared to mastectomy, is effective against some breast cancers
  • Development of monoclonal antibodies to treat lymphoma (Rituxan)

Cancer research is advancing on many fronts. Here are a few key areas:

More targeted therapies: As more is learned about the molecular biology of cancer, researchers will have more targets for their new drugs. According to a new report on drugs in the research pipeline for cancer, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America indicates a record 861 new cancer medicines and vaccines are being tested.

Nanotechnology: New technology for producing materials that form extremely tiny particles is leading to very promising imaging tests that can more accurately show the location of tumors, as well as new ways to deliver drugs more specifically and effectively to cancer cells.

Robotic surgery: This term refers to manipulation of surgical instruments remotely by robot arms and other devices controlled by a surgeon. Robotic systems have been used for several types of cancer surgery; radical prostatectomy is among the most common uses in surgical oncology. As mechanical and computer technology improve, some researchers expect future systems will be able to remove tumors more completely and with less surgical trauma.

RNA expression profiling and proteomics: RNA expression profiling lets scientists determine relative amounts of hundreds or even thousands of RNA molecules at one time. Knowing what proteins or RNA molecules are present in cells can tell scientists a lot about how the cell is behaving. In cancer, it can help distinguish more aggressive cancers from less aggressive ones, and can often help predict which drugs the tumor is likely to respond to. The large scale study of proteins, their structures and functions  known as proteomics is an exciting area of research and early results in lung and colorectal cancer studies have been promising.

MCRF’s Proud Partner, Your American Cancer Society
The American Cancer Society combines an unyielding passion with nearly a century of experience to save lives and end suffering from cancer. As a global grassroots force of more than three million volunteers, we fight for every birthday threatened by every cancer in every community. We save lives by:

  • helping people stay well, by preventing cancer or detecting it early;
  • helping people get well by being there for them during and after a cancer diagnosis;
  • finding cures through investment in groundbreaking discovery;
  • and, fighting back by rallying lawmakers to pass laws to defeat cancer and by rallying communities worldwide to join the fight.

As the nation’s largest non-governmental investor in cancer research, we turn what we know about cancer into what we do. As a result, more than 13 million people in America who have had cancer and countless more who have avoided it will be celebrating birthdays this year. To learn more about us or to get help, call us any time, day or night, at 1-800-227-2345 or visit cancer.org.

    ©2013 American Cancer Society, Inc.