Although smoking is declining in high-income countries, the relative burden from its most well-known consequence, lung cancer, continues to increase, especially in low-income countries. We examined the amount, types, geographical origins and funding of research on lung cancer as revealed by papers in the Web of Science over the 15 years, 2004–2018. The annual number of lung cancer research papers increased over the study period from 2,157 to 8,202, but as a percentage of all biomedical research in Western Europe and North America they only accounted for one-eighth of the percentage of the disease burden. Lung cancer increased its share of cancer research from 4.4% to 6.5%, mainly because of the greatly expanded output from China in 2014–2018 which published almost one-third of the world’s total on a fractional count basis. For almost all other countries, their lung cancer presence in cancer research has declined over the 15 years. However, only 15% of the Chinese papers were co-authored internationally and its research was focussed on treatment rather than prevention. Support for lung cancer research is primarily from the government rather than charity. There is therefore an urgent need to increase support for lung cancer research, and for more international collaboration, especially in low-income countries where the disease burden is growing rapidly, and in neglected domains, such as screening and palliative care.