There's an article at The Atlantic titled "More Money Won't Win the War on Cancer". I agree with the title, although it's worth remembering that lack of money will certainly lose it. Money, in basic research, is very much in the "necessary but not sufficient" category.
The article itself is making the case of a book by Clifton Leaf, The Truth in Small Doses, a project that started with this article in Fortune in 2004. Here's the pitch:
What if a lack of research funding isn’t really the problem? One reason we aren’t making faster progress against cancer, according to Leaf, is because the federal grant process often chases the brightest minds from academic labs, and for those who do stay, favors low-risk “little questions” over swinging for the fences.
“More money by itself is not going to solve anything,” Leaf said. “Let’s say we doubled the [National Institutes of Health] budget, that isn’t going to make the lives of researchers better.”
The problem, as Leaf sees it, is with the business of cancer research. Over the last decade or so, “doing science” has reached a crisis stage—a claim many in the cancer community agree with, even if they don’t quite see eye-to-eye with Leaf on all of his conclusions.
His take is that the grant-money situation is making academic researchers spend more and more time just trying to get (or stay) funded, and that they tend to avoid anything that might sound a bit unusual in their applications. He also fears that academic researchers are taking too long to get established, that what might be some of their more creative years are being wasted in lengthy post-docs and struggles for tenure. I think that these are real problems, although they've been coming on for a long time now.
The article seems a bit too focused on the academic side of things; I don't know yet if the book makes the same mistake. Looking at it from industry, I think that the odds are that the first fundamental insights are more likely to come from academia, but I also think that the heavy lifting of turning these into real treatments will be done by industry. The difference between these has come up many times on this site, but it's safe to say that the general public does not appreciate it. The only place a breakthrough in the lab means an instant breakthrough in the clinic is in the movies.
To the extent, though, that people are told that "More Money" is the answer in this field, I think it's good to make the point that it isn't necessarily the limiting factor. Problem is, there's no way to hold a charity insight-raiser, or to set up a box to Donate Good Ideas For the Cure. Medical research, whether industrial or academic, is a pretty esoteric field to most people. There's not much way for an interested lay person to help out directly; the technical background is too much of a barrier. So people raise money, (while some just raise "awareness", a particularly slippery term), because it's the only way that they feel that they can make any difference.
Also, as has been said many times before, the "war on cancer" term is an unfortunate one, because it makes it sound as if there's a single enemy to be defeated. What we have is a war on our own ignorance of biology and medicinal chemistry, and that's going to be a long one. But perhaps I'm making the mistake that oncology pioneer Sidney Farber warned about:
(The patients) with cancer who are going to die this year cannot wait; nor is it necessary, in order to make great progress in the cure for cancer, for us to have the full solution of all the problems of basic research…the history of Medicine is replete with examples of cures obtained years, decades, and even centuries before the mechanism of action was understood for these cures"
Problem is, the only way I can think of to come up with cures without such understanding is to do a lot of out-there clinical trials, at high risk. Farber himself took that approach, famously, and managed to win out. But I'm not sure what appetite we'd have for it on a broad scale.
By the way, if you take a look at the comments section to the Atlantic piece, you'll find the usual stuff. You know - the drug companies don't want to cure cancer, no way. If people would just follow Doctor So-And-So's Miracle Diet, they'd be fine. According to these folks, all this talk of cancer research is a sham to start with. Of course, the number of such "cures" is beyond counting, and since so many of them claim to cure most everything, you'd think that they can't all be right. But somehow this doesn't seem to faze their adherents, who are often enthusiasts for several broad miracle cures simultaneously.