Cancer research has carved an astonishing trajectory giving rise to a multi billion euro global network covering most domains of science and including all manner of research funders from industry to government and philanthropic funders. We have estimated that in 2004/2005 the global spend on cancer research was 14,030 million euros, with the USA, dominated by the NCI (c. 83%) accounting for the largest absolute spend. This is between 2 and 3 times the level of per capita spend compared to EU-15 and Europe, respectively. In Europe, the UK is at comparable levels of spend compared to the USA. Funding for cancer research in Europe is split almost 50:50 between philanthropic and governmental sources. Cancer research productivity in terms of outputs (publications) is slightly greater in Europe compared to the USA with an increasing trend towards more applied (clinical) outputs. Both the USA and Europe have equally strong industry-supported output levels.