In 1985, compelled by the memory of her late father, Edward P. Richardson, who had died of cancer one year earlier, Carolyn Aldigé embarked on a mission. She founded the Prevent Cancer Foundation, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, with the hope of sparing others from the pain and suffering caused by cancer. Aldigé believed firmly that an emphasis on prevention, not just treatment, could help decrease cancer deaths and incidence rates. Since then, through its research, education and outreach efforts, the Foundation has worked hard to spread the prevention message to the public, spurring ground-breaking research and new ways to reach captive audiences.
In the 1980s, upon starting the Foundation, Aldigé recalls, “Everyone was focused on the ‘magic bullet’ and everyone was focused on finding something that was going to cure cancer. And that’s what people thought was going to be the solution—a cure. Prevention was not in the mainstream. I think the attitude of most people was that cancer was a disease you were either going to get or you weren’t. There wasn’t anything you could do to keep yourself from getting it. The screening technologies were not nearly as good as they are now. We understood that it was a disease caused by genetic mutations, but we didn’t understand nearly as much as we do now about the science of how those mutations lead to cancer.”
Over the years the Foundation has invested millions to support cancer research to better understand the disease, funding many impressive discoveries. Aldigé has met dozens of researchers supported by the Foundation and followed their careers at leading medical institutions. Many researchers have approached Aldigé saying, “You gave me my first grant and here’s what I’ve done.” And some of them are now scientific superstars.
The climate within the cancer world has changed dramatically in recent years. In 2007, cancer deaths declined for the second straight year, with many experts crediting wider screening efforts for major cancers, such as colon, prostate and breast, as well as fewer smokers and better treatments. In addition, Americans are surviving cancer longer, as the five-year survival rate has risen from 53 percent to 66 percent, according to recent data.
This news is encouraging to Aldigé, a much sought-after speaker who travels around the world delivering messages of prevention that are increasingly popular in the public and in the media. “Cancer is a disease that can be prevented and there are many actions you can take to reduce your individual risk of developing cancer,” she says.
Even though almost one-half of all men and one-third of all women in the United States are at risk for developing cancer within their lifetime, preventive methods–including early detection, screening, a healthy diet and an exercise regimen–can make a difference. Coupled with improving technology and research, the Foundation is optimistic that cancer trends will continue to improve.
Aldigé encourages everyone to be aware of their health and follow simple guidelines that can help detect cancer in early stages. “The actions you take to prevent cancer can prevent a whole host of chronic diseases, not just one.”
Our Foundation’s future work will certainly help ensure that Carolyn Aldigé’s vision will have a long-lasting impact on cancer prevention for years to come.
The Foundation reaches $130 million invested in research, education, advocacy and community outreach funding, creates the Screening Saves micro site and produces Video Public Service Announcements.
The Foundation reaches $120 million in research, education and community outreach funding and publishes the Prevent Cancer Foundation Wellness Guide that offers practical tips for a cancer-free future.
The Foundation begins its 25th Anniversary celebration on December 4. Program funding reaches $113 million. Inaugural Step Away from Cancer™ 5K is held. The Foundation partners with three other organizations to sponsor Breakaway from Cancer, part of the Amgen Tour of California. An American Indian/Alaska Native version of Guide to Preventable Cancers is produced.
The Foundation commemorates the 100th Prevent Cancer Super Colon™ National Stop. The Foundation awards its first community grants. Prevent Cancer Foundation enters social media space with Prostate Pete. The Foundation launches Breast Health Education Facilitator’s Guide and video. The Foundation coordinates the first American Indian/Alaska Native meeting on colorectal cancer screening.
In partnership with the Step Up Women’s Network, the Foundation launches the Make the Connection national campaign to promote cervical cancer awareness.
Foundation provides $2.7 million in research funding. The Super Colon Tour – the incredible, inflatable interactive intestine – takes to the road to educate Americans about colorectal cancer.
Dr. Andrew J. Dannenberg authors a groundbreaking study that suggests women who take aspirin regularly can lower their risk of developing the most common type of breast cancer and describes Foundation funding as instrumental in his discovery. The Check Your Insides Out: From Top to Bottom exhibit crosses the country, teaching Americans about cancer prevention, early detection, risk factors and treatment of preventable cancers. A second Lung Cancer Workshop is sponsored to explore the use of spiral CT scans to accelerate progress in development of new drugs for early stage lung cancer. Bad Beat on Cancer – the Annual Texas Hold’em Tournament – begins.
The first-ever Cancer Prevention Survey confirming Americans believe that cancer can be prevented is conducted. The Foundation enters into a 5-year, $1.5 million cooperative agreement with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to bring its unique Dialogue for Action program to 14 states to promote colorectal cancer screening. We launch the Colossal Colon Tour to educate Americans about colorectal cancer prevention. The tour travels to 20 cities and features a 4-foot-tall, 40-footlong replica of the human colon. The foundation establishes a research endowment.
We fund Leslie Bernstein’s first-ever study to provide biological evidence that exercise can reduce breast cancer risk. Foundation grant funding enables Dr. Petra Wilder-Smith at the University of California, Irvine to pioneer the use of laser and ultrasound to detect cancer.
The Foundation Launches Project Early Awareness in partnership with Howard University to teach young African American women about the importance of breast health.
National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month is spearheaded by the Foundation; Congress designates March as National Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month and a Presidential Proclamation authorizes the month of observance. The Millennium Lung Cancer Workshop, to jump-start early lung cancer detection, is held.
The Foundation leads the way in promoting colorectal cancer screening when it holds its first Dialogue for Action, a unique, interactive conference that subsequently moves to an international audience and to regions throughout the U.S. We provide $1.7 million for research projects.
The Foundation helps organize the first Summit on Clinical Trials, helping to plan the future of clinical research.
The Foundation launches its Web site at www.preventcancer.org.
The Foundation funds Dr. Craig Slingluff’s research in the development of a of a vaccine against melanoma, an often fatal type of skin cancer,, which later proves effective in clinical trials. The Mammovan, the Washington region’s first and only mobile mammography unit, makes its first appearance, purchased with Foundation funding. The Foundation provides $1.2 million in research grants.
The Foundation launches ¡Celebremos la Vida!, a breast and cervical cancer education and screening program for underserved Hispanic women. The first Annual Spring Gala,a second signature event, is held attracting guests from all fields.
The Foundation starts raising research funds through its Sporting Clays Invitational, welcoming 100 participants, including members of the U.S. Congress. The Foundation teams up with Washington CBS-affiliate WUSA-TV9 to educate women about breast health through the program Buddy Check 9.
Drs. Paul Talalay and Yueshang Zhang, Foundation-funded researchers at Johns Hopkins University, isolate sulfurophane, a cancer-preventive compound found in broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables.
Congressional Families Cancer Prevention Program is established. The program is a bi-partisan cancer prevention awareness effort with the potential to reach constituents in virtually every Congressional district in the country. Foundation-funded researcher Dr. Craig Jordan conducts early research that leads to the development of tamoxifen, the first breast cancer chemopreventive drug.
The Foundation provides $1.2 million in research support.
The Foundation establishes its first named research fellowship.
Our first public awareness campaign, “Your Cancer Risk,” is launched.
The Foundation board meets for the first time and funds the Foundation’s first cancer prevention research fellowship, at $8,000.
Carolyn Aldigé founds the Prevent Cancer Foundation in memory of her father, Edward Perry Richardson, who died of cancer in 1984.