Why Cancer Researchers Are Playing it Safe

Long-shots are risky to fund, so grants go to less ambitious studies
By Katherine Thompson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 28, 2009 12:40 PM CDT
Despite all the support for cancer research from celebs like Fran Drescher and Sharon Osbourne, doctors aren't able to save very many more people now than they were several decades ago.   (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello, file)
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(Newser) – If you're a cancer researcher, it's harder to get money to investigate a potentially field-changing question than to find out whether a food's tastiness affects dieting. The reason is simple but problematic: With limited funding available and lots of research to do, grant-givers don't want to lose money on a long shot, writes the New York Times.

But the risky studies often lead to breakthroughs, like the drug that has saved the lives of women with particularly aggressive breast cancer. Its discoverer had to turn to a cosmetics company for money because his official grant proposal was rejected. The projects that are funded "are not silly, but they are only likely to produce incremental progress," a scientist explains.
(Read more cancer research stories.)