Cancer Groups Partner To Fund Research Dream Team

The American Cancer Society (ACS) and Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C) have announced a $20 million partnership that will fund a research “dream team” to develop new therapies for lung cancer over a three-year period.

“This alliance marries the Society’s comprehensive cancer-fighting mission with SU2C’s high-impact funding model,” said John Seffrin, Ph.D., CEO of the Atlanta, Ga.-based ACS. “Collectively, the Society and SU2C can push ahead more quickly with cutting-edge research on some of the most deadly cancers, all for the benefit of patients.”

Each organization will contribute half of the $20 million. Pharmaceutical manufacturer Bristol-Myers Squibb will contribute the $5 million to SU2C to help fund the team. SU2C’s research partner, the Philadelphia, Pa.-based American Association of Cancer Research (AACR), this fall will put out a call for research proposals. The team will be announced next year.

According to SU2C Co-founder Kathleen Lobb, the scientific advisory committee that recommends the grant recipient will be looking for multi-institutional, multi-disciplinary teams, and the ideas must be “very patient-centric,” she said.

“What we were attempting to accomplish with Stand Up To Cancer at the outset was to utilize resources of the entertainment industry to help scientists accelerate the pace at which new treatments get to patients,” said Lobb. “The advice we got from the scientists we consulted was the single biggest thing one could do to accelerate the pace is to facilitate collaboration among scientists at different institutions and different disciplines. The grants are also of a magnitude that will enable researchers to really make a difference.”

Since it was founded in 2008, SU2C has funded 11 dream teams tarageting various forms of cancer. SU2C, a program of the Los Angeles-based Entertainment Industry Foundation (EIF), is known for its star-studded fundraisers that are broadcast worldwide. The most recent event, held in September 2012, garnered $81 million, according to Lobb, and the EIF has raised more than $260 from its three telethons.

“While we want to walk before we run, we’re committed to an ongoing partnership,” said Seffrin. “This is the first and for a time only project but we hope the partnership to be expanded in the future. We just went through a major transformation of the American Cancer Society. Not only are we more efficient, but we’re more nimble and we can entertain collaboration and cooperation that was too difficult with the former platform.”

Lung cancer kills more Americans each year — approximately 160,000 — than any other type of cancer. ACS will leverage its large grassroots advocacy network, ACS Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN), to help change public policy, said Seffrin. “In the history of cancer, there’s never been a more exciting time in terms of the progress that we’ve made. The research has gone from a good bet to a sure bet,” he said. “There are many big problems out there, but here’s one we know that if we take the right actions, we’ll get results. It doesn’t mean we will succeed, but it means we can succeed.”