Supporting the Brightest Minds and the Best Research.

How We Fund Research

Breast Cancer research is a long and expensive process. It can take well over 15 years and $5 billion to translate a discovery in the lab into a new drug that can be used by patients. Breast cancer research is also time-consuming; it can take years to complete a single study. Although the investment in time and resources is significant, the potential impact is tremendous. Research is the only way we will discover and deliver the cures for breast cancer.

A scientist who operates a research lab spends $50,000 to $500,000 each year on equipment and salaries, and $20,000 or more per year for materials used in the lab. The cost of cancer cells for just one experiment ranges from $300 to $500. A single bottle of a specialized solution is as much as $800.

At Komen, we have a rigorous review process for selecting research grants, called peer-review. Peer-review is a grant review process used by many organizations, including the National Institutes of Health, to determine which research grants will be funded. By using this rigorous process, we strive to fund the very best research – funding projects that have the potential to advance the field and have an impact on patients as rapidly as possible.

  1. Our Scientific Advisory Board determines the most critical areas of need in breast cancer research. These needs determine the areas of research focus in the Request for Applications (RFA).
  2. The RFA is announced and researchers submit short versions of their proposals, describing both the proposed study and potential clinical impact of the project. These pre-applications are scientifically reviewed by peer-review committees which are led by a Chairperson and comprised of our Komen Scholars, Advocates in Science and other prominent researchers and advocates from around the globe.
  3. Approximately 20-25% of these pre-applications will be identified as the most meritorious and aligned with our research objectives. Upon approval by our Scientific Advisory Board, applicants will be invited to submit full applications for further peer review and funding consideration.
  4. Full applications are discussed, rated and scored by the assigned reviewers – including members of the Komen Scholars and Advocates in Science– who assess the strengths and weaknesses of each application based on defined review criteria such as scientific merit and potential for impact. 
  5. The overall scores for each application are then used by Komen’s SAB to make final funding recommendations across all research mechanisms. Applications are recommended for funding in the order of the overall average score. SAB recommendations are forwarded to Komen leadership, who approves the final slate of applications for funding.

    A typical peer-review process can involve more than 400 scientists and advocate reviewers and up to 23 to 25 peer-review committees. Although the number of applications received varies from year to year, Komen typically receives between 950 and 1,050 pre-applications annually. Funding ratios can vary considerably by year and grant type.

 Dr. George Sledge, Chief Scientific Advisor

“Something I realized early in my career is that research cures cancer. The only way we get forward in this field is to take the best from the laboratory and move it as quickly as possible into the clinic.” —

Your Research Dollars At Work

 See how your donations are fueling the best breast cancer research.


Research Accomplishments

See how Komen researchers are making difference.


Clinical Trials We Are Funding

See what types of clinical trials Komen research has supported.


Bringing The Patient Voice To Research

Learn how breast cancer survivors and advocates are involved in our scientific research.


Funded Awards

Get more information on specific research funded by Komen.


Our People and Teams

Learn about our Board of Directors, Scientific Advisory Board, Komen Scholars, Advocates in Science and more.