International Cancer Benchmarking Partnership

The International Cancer Benchmarking Partnership (ICBP) is a unique and innovative collaboration that brings together clinicians, policymakers, researchers and data experts across the world. It aims to measure international variation in cancer survival, incidence and mortality, as well as identify factors that might be driving these differences. 

The ICBP produces high quality research to help identify best international practice, and generate insights needed for policy and practice change. This will help to enable optimisation of cancer services and improvement of outcomes for cancer.

The ICBP was set up in 2009 to deliver high quality, comparative research on cancer survival, incidence and mortality trends across high income countries. Our research uses a range of data sources to explore factors that could explain international variation in survival rates. 

The partnership provides the opportunity to compare data and share practices and policies that seem to be contributing to improved cancer outcomes. The ICBP wants to ensure patients across the globe experience the best possible cancer services and aims to drive international improvement in cancer registry practices

Who are we?

The structure of the partnership is outlined below:

ICBP Chair and Deputy Chair

The partnership is led by the ICBP Chair, Mark Lawler (Associate Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Professor of Digital Health, and Chair in Translational Cancer Genomics at Queen’s University Belfast), and Deputy Chairs, David Currow (CEO, Cancer Institute New South Wales) and David Cameron (Professor of Medical Oncology). John Butler is the Lead ICBP Clinical Advisor (and Gynaecological surgeon at the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust (London).

ICBP Programme Board

The Programme Board provides governance and oversight and is the key decision-making body within the partnership. The Board includes representatives from each participating jurisdiction. Many Board members have a clinical or academic background in cancer alongside their current senior administrative roles. The Board meets by teleconference four times per year to review progress.

Meet the ICBP Transition Phase Programme Board

The Programme Management team

Cancer Research UK provides programme management support on behalf of all partners. The team facilitates the delivery of the international research, providing a first-line review of progress, and helping to resolve challenges that arise. Communication of the findings and impacts of the ICBP are a key element of the team’s work. 

The team are also responsible for delivering two of the Phase 2 research modules: Access to Diagnostics and Access to Optimal Treatment. 

Clinical committees

ICBP clinical committees provide expert advice at all stages of the research, from method design to result interpretation. Our clinical committee members also act as local champions who help translate findings into impact. The committees are led by ICBP Clinical Advisor John Butler (Consultant Gynaecological Oncology Surgeon, The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust).

Academic Reference Groups (ARGs)

ARG members provide independent, constructive feedback on all phases of our research. Members are selected based on their expertise and provide a friendly challenge to researchers. They work to ensure outputs meet academic standards, as expected for publication in leading journals.


The ICBP has complete two phases of research. The cornerstones of the first two phases were the survival benchmark papers comparing differences in survival, incidence and mortality. Read more below for the exploratory research modules that were undertaken to triangulate the reasons behind the differences. The ICBP is in a currently in a Transition Phase and set to enter the Third Phase of research in April 2023.

In Phase 1, the ICBP used cancer registry data to provide a high quality international cancer survival benchmark and quantified the variation between participating ICBP countries. This covered the period of 1995-2007 and included four cancer types: breast, colorectal, lung and ovary. The ICBP also explored reasons behind the variation in survival rates, as detailed in the diagram below. 

In Phase 2, the ICBP has expanded to cover eight cancer sites: colon, rectum, lung, ovary, oesophagus, stomach, pancreas and liver. An updated cancer benchmark has been published, now also incorporating incidence and mortality data, for the period 1995-2014. This will enable us to investigate any progress made within cancer control for this time period. Further exploratory research modules shown in the diagram below will be delivered, to provide possible explanations for international cancer survival variation. 

The partnership includes 22 jurisdictions across 8 countries and 3 continents, including:

  • Australia: New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia.
  • Canada: Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Quebec and Saskatchewan.
  • Denmark
  • Ireland
  • New Zealand
  • Norway
  • Sweden (phase 1 only)
  • The United Kingdom: England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

To participate in the partnership jurisdictions must have:

  • High quality and long-standing population-based cancer registration with good coverage, to ensure that cancer survival results represent the entire population
  • Primary care led and universal access to health care – for which there will be similar policy considerations.
  • Broadly comparable wealth and similar expenditure on healthcare provision
  • A willingness to commit significant time, enthusiasm and funding to participate in an international collaboration.

Learn more about ICBP jurisdiction specific impacts

Which cancers do we study?

In Phase 2, we are focusing on 8 cancer sites:

Why these cancer sites?

The cancer sites chosen include both relatively common cancers (lung, colon and rectum) and cancers that are hard to treat (liver, ovarian, pancreas, stomach and oesophagus) in high-income countries. There is significant international variation in cancer survival for these sites. 

Generally, cancers of the liver, ovary pancreas, stomach and oesophagus   involve more complex diagnostic pathways. The likelihood of dying from these cancer sites is higher than in more common cancers, such as breast cancer.

Cancers of the lung, colon and rectum are more common within high-income countries. If we can improve survival for these cancer sites, this will have a positive impact on the overall burden of disease.