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Peter_Hurford comments on Medical research: cancer is hugely overfunded; here's what to choose instead - Effective Altruism Forum

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Comment author: Peter_Hurford  (EA Profile) 06 August 2017 07:33:43PM *  2 points [-]

Cancer research may not be so bad at far as developed world interventions go.

The Wellcome Trust, a UK-based medical research charity funding research into human and animal health, estimated that “total expenditure on cancer-related research [in the UK] from 1970 to 2009 was £15 billion” and that “over the period 1991–2010, the interventions included in the study produced 5.9 million quality-adjusted life years”. This would imply a return of £2542.37 per DALY at the time of the study, or ~$4195 per DALY in 2016 US dollars.

Separately, Holden Karnofsky at the Open Philanthropy Project estimated the cost-effectiveness of cancer research in the US to be ~$2800 per DALY.

Notably, none of these estimates compare well to the best developing world interventions (~$80 per DALY), but they are far more cost-effective than the average medical intervention at $30K per DALY in 2016 US dollars (Tengs, et. al., 1994, p371).

Of course, that these estimates are not robust and comparisons with figures from other sources are not apples-to-apples.

Comment author: Sanjay 09 August 2017 12:07:30PM 0 points [-]

Agreed. I think that medical research is probably a pretty decent choice for the reasons you give, but that cancer is likely to be the worst choice within the medical research space.