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About Research at CANSA

Through collaborative research, CANSA research aims to promote and support innovative, effective and relevant approaches to the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer, in order to address the high cancer burden in South Africa.

Researchers include scientists, social scientists, clinicians, epidemiologists, health professionals, and students.

Explore our website for information on current news, cancer projects, recent publications and research funding opportunities.

Different Areas of Cancer Research

The term ‘cancer research’ covers a wide range of research activities. But, in general, there are five main areas of research:

  • Basic research
  • Clinical research
  • Translational research
  • Population-oriented research
  • Socio- Behavioural research

Basic Research:

Basic research (cancer biology) is the study of how cells work. Cancer researchers who carry out basic research don’t focus on finding a new treatment or developing a new drug. Instead, they seek to understand what makes cancer cells different from normal cells.

Scientists who do basic cancer research examine the molecules that cause this disease, such as proteins and DNA. They try to find out what goes wrong when cancer develops.

Clinical research:

The goal of clinical research is to develop more effective treatments for cancer. Clinical researchers try new combinations and doses of existing treatments to see if they work better than standard treatments.

Clinical researchers also use the information collected from translational research to develop new cancer treatments. Sometimes they might use this information to improve standard treatments as well.

Clinical research is carried out in hospitals and usually involves cancer patients. They take part in what is known as a clinical trial. The clinical trial tests a drug or medical procedure to see if it is a safe and beneficial treatment in one group of people and comparing it with the standard treatment given to another group of people.

Many medicines and drugs work in laboratory tests. But they must be shown to be safe and effective for people before they can be approved by the regulatory authorities and prescribed by doctors.

Translational research:

Translational research targets drug discovery and development. Researchers take discoveries made in the laboratory and shape them into potential new treatments or diagnostic tests that, in time, could help cancer patients. Translational research applies the knowledge gained from research into cancer biology.

This kind of research is usually carried out in a laboratory. The results from translational studies can tell researchers if a new treatment or test should be tried in people.

Behavioural and population oriented research:

Behavioural and population research aims to identify the things that influence our chances, or risk, of getting cancer. If we understand what increases our risk of developing cancer, we should be able to find ways to reduce the risk and prevent cancers from occurring.

Behavioural research looks at how our behaviour can affect our chances of getting cancer. It tries to find out why people behave the way they do, why they sometimes behave in unhealthy ways and what motivates them to adopt more healthy behaviours.

Population research looks at how cancer affects the general population and aims to identify its causes. This type of research uses large-scale studies that involve thousands of people, looking for patterns (trends) in the incidence of different cancers. The large number of people involved makes it easier to identify the factors that are associated with increased cancer incidence.

By combining behavioural and population research we can develop strategies for preventing cancer and promoting good health. Tobacco use, cancer screening, dietary behaviour and sun protection are some areas that have been investigated by these researchers.

CANSA’s Research

CANSA prioritises its research to ensure that all South African communities benefit.

CANSA’s core research focus is on reducing risk, early detection and diagnosis, and optimising patient care and support, including palliation. CANSA uses evidence-based research to inform our advocacy work, our health education programmes, and our service to those living with cancer, their families and members of the public.

A system categorised Type A, B and C research programmes has evolved in CANSA and concerns the modus operandi of research funding.

The type A category is aimed at MBChB and PhD cancer researchers based at South African universities and research organisations. The purpose of this funding is to support high-quality research to advance management and improve outcomes for the most common cancers in South Africa. Our type B research projects are largely initiated, conceptualised and conducted by CANSA, although this may be in conjunction with other institutions. These projects are typically smaller and focused on reducing public exposure to environmental cancer risks. Our type C research projects are conceptualised and conducted by CANSA, sometimes in collaboration with other institutions. Projects are focused on optimising services to cancer patients and addressing their needs.

Funding CANSA’s Research

CANSA has been fortunate in receiving generous bequests from individual members of the public over the years, specifically for funding cancer research. These funds have been grown with considerable success through excellent investment strategies by financial experts serving CANSA on the CANSA Investment Committee.

Our Progress & Achievements

We are one of the largest funders of cancer research in South Africa and the country’s largest charity dedicated to cancer research. Read the Research sections of our Annual Reports to find out about some of our most important successes, the progress we are making in beating cancer and the people who make our work possible.

Who and What we Fund

Click here to find out more about the scientists we fund and how their research projects are of value in the struggle against cancer.

Honouring our Researchers

Each year we honour exceptional men and women who have made a significant contribution in some area of cancer research. Read more…

Get Involved with our Research

Click here to make a secure online donation to support our research projects or make a direct deposit to ABSA Bank, Account: CANSA Research, number: 4079965964, Branch: 632005, Reference: Type A, B or C Research (the programme you choose to support). Please email proof of your deposit to

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