Global trends in psycho-oncology research investments 2016–2020: a content analysis

Isabella Conti, Mitchell Davidson, Ramsey I. Cutress, Stuart A. McIntosh*, Michael G. Head

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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An estimated one-third of cancer patients experience a clinically significant psychological disorder, however it is unclear to what extent this is reflected in research funding. To address this a systematic analysis the allocation of psycho-oncology research funding globally between 2016 and 2020 was conducted.

A global dataset of 66,388 cancer research awards, from 2016 to 2020 inclusive and totalling $24.5 billion USD was assembled from public and philanthropic funders. Each award was previously categorised by cancer site type and research theme, including psychosocial research and these awards were further sub-categorised for this analysis.

There was $523m of funding awarded for psychological research across 1122 studies: 2.14% of all cancer research funding during this period ($24.5 billion). Median funding per award was $97,473 (IQR $36,864 – $453,051). Within psychological research, mental health received most funding ($174m, 33.5% of psychological funding). Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) focused research was the specific psychological support with the highest proportion of funding at $14 million. By country of funder, the USA provided most investment ($375.5 m, 71.8%).

Psycho-oncology research received relatively little funding, for example, when compared with pre-clinical cancer research. There needs to be a shift from pre-clinical science to research that benefits cancer patients in the shorter-term. Low- and middle-income countries, and ethnic minorities in higher-income settings, were underrepresented despite having a large cancer burden, indicating inequities that need to be addressed.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere6273
Number of pages10
Issue number1
Early online date23 Dec 2023
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2024


  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Oncology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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