According to the survey, which was launched at the European Parliament on 18 September, a total of €3.2 billion was spent on cancer research in Europe in 2004, representing an increase of 38% since the last survey two years ago. Just over half of this amount comes from governmental organisations, with the rest coming from the charitable sector.
Although Europe still spends less on cancer research as a percentage of GDP (Gross Domestic Product) than the US, the gap is closing. Furthermore, Europe and the US are evenly matched when it comes to the volume of cancer research publications produced.
"Contrary to public perception, a phenomenal amount of cancer research is carried out in Europe, evidenced by the huge amount of cancer research papers being published here," commented Professor Richard Sullivan, Chair of the ECRM Forum. "This is important, as many policy makers assume the global funding for cancer research is overwhelmingly concentrated in the USA. Our data indicate that this is not true and the effort is truly a global one. The possibilities for fruitful partnerships not only exist, but should be the basis for future long-term policy."
However, the report's authors highlight the growing threat that bureaucracy poses to advances in cancer research. "Good research governance is essential but bureaucracy is absorbing too much of the global investment in cancer research," said Professor Sullivan. "Bureaucracy and over-management remain constant dangers to progress. Funding organisations and government policy makers must guard against these dangers and, where necessary, simplify and harmonise."
A recent study by Cancer Research UK found that the EU Clinical Trials Directive has resulted in a doubling of the costs of running non-commercial cancer clinical trials, delayed the start of trials by several months and made international collaboration in clinical trials more difficult.
The ECRM document also emphasises the wide differences in cancer research spending within Europe. Leading the field by a long way is the UK, which spent €783 million on cancer research in 2004. Second and third places went to Germany and France, who spent €324 million and €249 million respectively.
Since the last survey was published two years ago, 60% of Member States have increased their levels of research funding in real terms. However, 30% have not increased their spending at all.
"It is clear that some governments are still failing to appropriately support cancer research," said Professor Sullivan. "For these countries the need for specific policy actions to ensure a limited core of high quality research within their institutions - relative to their R&D [research and development] budgets - is crucial if these Member States have aspirations to become major locations for cancer research in the future."
The survey also identifies a move away from basic research and towards more clinical research in a majority of countries studied. Speaking at the launch of the report, Professor Sullivan called for a more holistic approach to curing and controlling cancer.
"New drug discovery is only one strategy," he said, noting that there was a need for more research into issues such as prevention and early diagnosis. Professor Sullivan added that he hoped the Commission would fund such research under the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7).
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