The Health Bureau (HHB) has long supported local health and medical research, as well as health promotion projects. Through the generation of scientific knowledge derived from local and global research, as well as translating these knowledge into clinical practice, the Health and Medical Research Fund (HMRF) administered by the HHB is able to provide more and better evidence to support cancer prevention, diagnosis, treatment and survivorship, as well as formulation of evidence-based health policy, to reduce cancer incidence, morbidity, mortality, and to improve the quality of life of patients. Studies on cancer-related areas will be given priority for funding under the HMRF.
The Health and Medical Research Fund (HMRF) was established by the HHB in 2011 by consolidating the former Health and Health Services Research Fund and the former Research Fund for the Control of Infectious Diseases, with a broadened scope for funding health and medical research in Hong Kong. In 2017, the HMRF further expanded its scope by incorporating the former Health Care and Promotion Fund in order to create synergy and provide more flexibility in supporting both health and medical research and health promotion efforts.
The HMRF aims to build research capacity and to encourage, facilitate and support health and medical research to inform health policies, improve population health, strengthen the health system, enhance healthcare practices, advance standard and quality of care, and promote clinical excellence, through generation and application of evidence-based scientific knowledge derived from local research in health and medicine. It also provides funding support to evidence-based health promotion projects that help people adopt healthier lifestyles by enhancing awareness, changing adverse health behaviours or creating a conducive environment that supports good health practices.
The HMRF provides funding support for the following types of projects:
a. Investigator-initiated Projects (funding ceiling: $1.5 million per project; project period: 3 years) – to support research studies and health promotion projects from individual applicants in response to "HMRF open call" invitations for grant applications guided by reference to the thematic priorities.
b. Government-commissioned Programmes – to support specific programmes commissioned to, inter alia, build research capacity, fill knowledge gaps, support policy formulation, address specific issues, assess needs and threats, etc. Funding may cover research projects, facilities, infrastructure and other capacity building initiatives as appropriate.
c. Research Fellowship Scheme (funding ceiling: $1.2 million per award; award period: 2 years) – to enhance research capability and build research capacity to facilitate the translation of knowledge into formulation of health policy and clinical practice. Research fellowships will be awarded to eligible candidates covering a range of research areas and specialties on the advice of the Research Council.
Please visit the Research Fund Secretariat’s website (https://rfs.healthbureau.gov.hk/) for the details of open calls for Investigator-initiated Projects and Research Fellowship Scheme, and the abstracts of the approved projects.
Five Expert Advisory Panels (EAPs) on Cancer, Primary Healthcare and Non-Communicable Disease, Infectious Diseases, Mental Health and Implementation Science respectively, had been set up by the Research Council to make recommendations to advance science and to shape the research agenda of the HMRF. Members comprise local experts in the forefront of cancer research and healthcare. The thematic priorities relating to cancer for the 2019 HMRF Open Call for Investigator-initiated projects include:
Please visit the Research Fund Secretariat’s website (https://rfs.healthbureau.gov.hk/) for the details of the approved projects.
The following commissioned programmes related to cancer have been supported by the HMRF:
The HMRF has commissioned The Chinese University of Hong Kong and The University of Hong Kong in December 2015 each to conduct a four-to a five-year study to evaluate the overall performance of the Colorectal Cancer Screening Pilot Programme, including its effectiveness and cost-effectiveness, satisfaction of users and service providers, change in public understanding, perception, acceptance and equitable use of the screening. The total funding for these two programmes is $22 million.
The HMRF has commissioned The University of Hong Kong to conduct a five-year study on the risk of breast cancer in Hong Kong in 2015. The study aims to formulate a risk prediction model for breast cancer in Hong Kong using a case‐control study approach under which a comparison is made between women with and without breast cancer. It also aims to find out the relationship between risk factors (such as age, body mass index and other personal characteristics, physical activity, family history of breast cancer, and history of benign breast disease) and breast cancer development. The total funding for this programme is $19 million.
To tackle tobacco‐related harms, a major risk factor for cancer, a three‐year study has been commissioned to The University of Hong Kong in 2019 to evaluate the impact of tobacco control policies in Hong Kong. The study aims to establish a systematic survey to determine the effectiveness of existing tobacco control measures and to recommend new measures in line with the research findings. The total funding for this programme is $9 million.
In 2019, the HMRF has commissioned The Chinese University of Hong Kong to conduct a five-year population‐based cohort study to examine the chemo‐protective effects of aspirin against multiple cancers. The study will assess whether the long‐term use of aspirin is associated with the risk reduction on cancer incidence and mortality, and to evaluate the benefits of aspirin outweigh its potential risks of bleeding events by examining clinical records of a cohort of more than 600,000 patients. The total funding for this programme is $9.85 million.
The HMRF has provided funding to support the infrastructure of the two Phase I Clinical Trials Centres (“CTCs”) for five years with a total funding of $80 million to conduct early phase clinical trials. Since 2014, the two Centres have commenced trials on safety, pharmacology and efficacy of various treatment for a range of cancers including liver, lung, breast, colorectum, kidney and other solid tumours. Additional funding of $100 million has been provided starting from 2019 to the two Phase I CTCs, for development of novel pharmaceutical products including those treating different cancers.