Economics of Cancer


Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the United States and worldwide. It is projected to soon surpass heart disease as the leading cause of death globally.

In 2010 the estimated overall cost of cancer treatment and care was $264 billion, including $103 billion in direct medical costs and $161 billion in productivity loss from cancer-related mortality and morbidity.

As efforts to control health-related expenditures intensify, the rising costs of cancer care is taking central stage. Even more urgently, a substantial amount of cancer expenditures do not always translate into improved health outcomes, yet costly new technologies in oncology often diffuse rapidly into practice. Simultaneously, cost-containment efforts may prevent adequate investment in potentially effective new therapies.  To meet the needs of current and future generations, researchers and practitioners must meet these challenges and reduce cancer's medical and economic burdens. 

Program Scope

The University of Chicago Program in the Economics of Cancer is a joint initiative between the University of Chicago Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Center for Health and the Social Sciences. Supported by these two established Centers, the Program in the Economics of Cancer mobilizes university resources to address pressing national and international challenges in cancer economics.

The Program's primary objective is to help policymakers and scientists more fully capture the benefits of medical advances to optimize outcomes in cancer care, ideally reducing the human and economic burdens of cancer. To achieve this goal, we bring together faculty trained in the field of economics and other social sciences -- as well as basic, clinical, and translational cancer research -- to study the economic aspects of the current state of cancer care delivery.

Topics explored by Program scholars include the diffusion of new technologies in cancer and the associated costs and health outcomes; factors contributing to the escalating costs of cancer care; the comparative effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of cancer treatment options or screening strategies; and disparities in the receipt of novel cancer treatments and in the uptake of cancer screening.

The Program periodically funds pilot research projects to attract and foster the development of young investigators interested in the economics of cancer. Senior scholars in the Program provide technical guidance and mentorship in economic modeling of oncology trial data and research methods suitable for population-based studies using large claims databases.

For more information, please contact Ellen Cohen, CHeSS Executive Director, at ecohen1@bsd.