In most countries, healthcare service budgets are not likely to support the current explosion in the cost of new oncology drugs. Repurposing the large arsenal of approved, non-anticancer drugs is an attractive strategy to offer more-effective options to patients with cancer, and has the substantial advantages of cheaper, faster and safer preclinical and clinical validation protocols. The potential benefits are so relevant that funding of academically and/or independently driven preclinical and clinical research programmes should be considered at both national and international levels. To date, successes in oncology drug repurposing have been limited, despite strong evidence supporting the use of many different drugs. A lack of financial incentives for drug developers and limited drug development experience within the non-profit sector are key reasons for this lack of success. We discuss these issues and offer solutions to finally seize this opportunity in the interest of patients and societies, globally.