Every so often, it’s good for an organization to take stock of what it has accomplished over the years. As part of the 25th anniversary of the Prevent Cancer Foundation, we decided to take a broad look at our funding of external research since 1985. The Foundation is a small, gutsy organization of about 25, and its mission is prevention and early detection in research, as well as education and community outreach.
The Big Picture
To create the big picture of the “who/what/where/when” of our funding over the years, we used our researcher database, which now holds the records for most of the research funded since the early days of the Foundation. (A few years ago, when we developed the database, “peopling” it took some work, because we had to enter manually the records of researchers funded before 2004, when we began using an online application system.)
And what we found was very exciting! The Foundation has invested over $20 million in research to prevent cancer or detect it early, funding projects in areas as diverse as behavioral interventions, molecular biomarkers, vaccine development and new screening methods, including new imaging possibilities. Here are some of the highlights of the report:
•The Foundation has funded 439 projects in 39 states and 3 in Canada, in over 150 institutions.
•Foundation funding has helped researchers early in their careers explore new ways to prevent cancer or detect it early: About 1/3 of funding has supported researchers who have recently finished their MDs, PhDs or other terminal degrees and who are working in mentors’ labs. About 2/3 has supported researchers who are early in their independent careers.
•The first award was made in FY 87 to Dr. John Sutherland to support his research on Burkitt’s Lymphoma, a kind of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
•Over half the projects funded have focused on preventable cancers which include breast, cervical, colorectal, lung, oral, prostate and skin (so far, no projects have been funded for testicular cancer).
Funding Fresh & Innovative Ideas
The Foundation’s funding for early-career researchers gives them the means to pursue fresh and innovative ideas. For example, a major development in cancer detection is the use of imaging (ways of “seeing” inside the body through various means), which has exciting potential for patient care. The Foundation has funded several important projects pushing the envelope in imaging, including Dr. Yu Chen of the University of Maryland, who has received Foundation funding to improve optical imaging methods (these methods do not expose patients to radiation). In addition, Dr. Eduard Chekmenev, another Foundation grantee, received a larger grant from the National Cancer Institute based on the work that the Foundation funded.
Although FY 10 was challenging due to the economic downturn, the Foundation is committed to funding early-career researchers and to support the vital role they play in advancing cancer prevention and early detection.