Cancer in numbers

Cancer is likely to remain one of the most complex and expensive health issues of the 21st century in Europe and beyond. Cancer now accounts for a quarter of all deaths and is the number one cause of death for people aged 45-64 in an increasing number of EU countries, overtaking cardiovascular disease.

In 2012, it was estimated that 3.45 million new cases were diagnosed and more than 1.75 million people died from cancer in Europe (see European Journal of Cancer and The lancet).

What the EU is doing

EU research efforts to fight cancer have been ongoing since 1985. These efforts support research to develop patient-oriented strategies to prevent, cure and/or live with cancer.

Using a personalised medicine approach, research ranges from prevention and screening to

  • big data, data exchange, digital care, artificial intelligence
  • more effective and earlier diagnosis
  • biomarkers and drug discovery
  • technology and disease models as well as effective cancer treatments

To improve people’s quality of life, EU-supported research also addresses

  • the causes and mechanisms that drive the progression of cancer
  • metastasis of cancer to other parts of the body
  • the translation of basic knowledge of treatment side effects into meaningful clinical strategies
  • the development of devices and mobile health apps to improve healthcare for cancer patients undergoing treatment and those who have survived but face long-term health issues
  • the support of clinical studies taking into account patient reported outcomes, testing new and cost-effective palliative care and end-of-life services

Other important issues related to cancer are also covered, such as

  • coordination of cancer research
  • ageing and cancer
  • childhood and adolescent cancers
  • outcomes of research at EU and national level
  • psychosocial aspects of cancer
  • comorbidity
  • quality designation
  • cost-effectiveness
  • big data and data sharing

Under the Seventh Framework Programme (2007-13), about 1000 projects received funding totalling some €1.6 billion.

Under Horizon 2020 (2014-20) the current EU framework programme for research and innovation, 980 projects so far have been funded for €1.2 billion.

Read more about the Commission’s activities in the area of cancer.

Success stories

Read some of the success stories of EU funded cancer research

Find more success stories


Several projects funded by the EU aim to combat the many aspects of cancer.


    Accelerating clinical translation and maximizing the accessibility and utility of biomedical data.


    Developing new tools to boost breast cancer detection.


    Aiming to establish a novel immunotherapy for leukemia.


    Addressing the gap between cytogenetics and next generation sequencing


    Improving treatment response in women with metastatic breast cancer.


    Enabling early detection and prediction of therapeutic outcome in breast and ovarian cancer.


    Pioneering a personalised vaccine to treat glioblastoma patients.

  • GLAM

    Developing a low-cost, minimally invasive device to monitor and diagnose genitourinary cancers.


    Understanding and identifying public health policy solutions.

Find more projects

Relevant articles in HORIZON: The EU Research & Innovation magazine

More information