AACR Grants Program Funds Diverse Range of Cancer Research

Since its inception in 1993, the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) Grants Program, in partnership with other nonprofit organizations, foundations, and pharmaceutical companies, has funded groundbreaking basic, translational, and clinical cancer research. In 2019 alone, the AACR awarded more than $12.5 million in grants to support innovative and impactful cancer research projects.

The AACR Grants Program supports researchers at all career levels by awarding fellowships, career development awards, independent investigator awards, team science awards, and its flagship NextGen Grants for Transformative Cancer Research. The grants program is growing, with several new programs launched this past year to fulfill previously unmet needs.

Elizabeth M. Jaffee, MD, the immediate Past President of the AACR, highlighted these new grant programs during her remarks at the Grants Reception and Dinner at the 2019 AACR Annual Meeting. These new grants include the AACR-AstraZeneca Stimulating Therapeutic Advances through Research Training (START) Grants and AACR-Bayer Stimulating Therapeutic Advances through Research Training (START) Grants to foster collaboration between academia and industry; the AACR-Bristol-Myers Squibb Midcareer Female Investigator Grant, a model designed specifically for female midcareer scientists; and the AACR-Genentech Cancer Health Disparities Research Fellowships to address the haunting issues of disparities in cancer research. This past year, the AACR also launched new funding opportunities in partnerships with Novocure and The Bosarge Family Foundation.

Alfredo Oliveros A., PhD, from the Mayo Clinic (right), the inaugural recipient of The Bosarge Family Foundation-Waun Ki Hong Scholar Award for Regenerative Cancer Medicine, with Daniel D. Karp, MD, professor at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. Photo by © AACR/Matt Herp.

Commenting on the breadth of research covered by the AACR’s newest grantees, with leaders in the field of lung cancer prevention, junior faculty focused on breast cancer and tumor treating fields, as well as postdoctoral and clinical fellows with a variety of research focuses, Jaffee noted, “We have truly captured the spirit of the AACR’s mission – to prevent and cure all cancers.”

“The AACR’s grants program has been at the forefront of major breakthroughs in cancer research since its inception,” said Yixian (John) Zhang, PhD, senior director of Scientific Review and Grants Administration at the AACR, adding that studies funded through AACR grants “have not only improved our understanding of cancer biology but have also accelerated the development of lifesaving treatments for patients.”

During the 2019 Grants Reception and Dinner the following grants were awarded:


The AACR awarded several fellowships with support from AstraZeneca, Amgen, Novocure, Pfizer, Takeda, Genentech, Debbie’s Dream Foundation, Bayer, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Incyte, The Bosarge Family Foundation, The John and Elizabeth Leonard Family Foundation, Loxo Oncology, and QuadW. These fellowships encourage and support postdoctoral or clinical research fellows to conduct cancer research and to establish successful career paths in the field.

NextGen Grants for Transformative Cancer Research

The AACR, with the support of Genentech, awarded two 2019 NextGen Grants for Transformative Cancer Research. These grants promote and support creative, paradigm-shifting cancer research intended to catalyze significant scientific discoveries and help talented young investigators gain scientific independence.

Career Development Awards

With the support of Novocure, the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, and GlaxoSmithKline, the AACR awarded five 2019 Career Development Awards to promote and support early-career investigators conducting innovative research.

Independent Investigator Awards

In 2019, the AACR, in conjunction with Novocure, Bayer, the Neuroendocrine Tumor Research Foundation, and Bristol-Myers Squibb, granted 16 Independent Investigator Awards. These awards represent joint efforts to support independent investigators at different career stages and to accelerate the translation of ideas from basic research to advanced treatment options.

Team Science Awards

The inaugural AACR-Johnson & Johnson Lung Cancer Innovation Science Grant recipients. From left to right: Karl T. Kelsey, MD, Elizabeth A. Platz, ScD, MPH, Dominique Michaud, ScD, James V. DeGregori, PhD, Harvey I. Pass, MD, John V. Heymach, MD, PhD, Tullia C. Bruno, PhD, and Jianjun Jay Zhang, MD, PhD. Photo by © AACR/Matt Herp.

The three teams awarded the inaugural 2018 AACR-Johnson & Johnson Lung Cancer Innovation Science Grants were also honored during the 2019 Annual Grants Reception and Dinner. These multi-institutional team grants represent a joint effort to support pioneering cancer research focused on improving the detection of early lung cancers.

Mitch Stoller, chief philanthropic officer and vice president of development of the AACR Foundation, thanked the AACR’s funding partners for their generous support. “We hope that you will continue to join us in our quest to save more lives from cancer,” he said.

Margaret Foti, PhD, MD (hc), chief executive officer of the AACR, congratulated the grantees and also praised the supporters. “The generosity and ingenuity of our partners have been absolutely instrumental to the continued success of our grants program, and the AACR is dedicated to ensuring that these precious resources are provided to the highest quality research proposals,” she said.

Awardees at the Grants Reception and Dinner at the 2019 AACR Annual Meeting. Photo by © AACR/Matt Herp.