Stand Up to Cancer TV fundraiser Aims to Facilitate Cancer Research in New Ways

PJ Hamel Health Guide
  • The word “change” has been in the news a lot lately, courtesy of Democratic Presidential nominee Barack Obama’s campaign ads. And change has been in the air, too, as summer’s heat gives way to fall. Is it possible the pace of cancer research is about to change, as well?

    Stand Up To Cancer, the much-touted TV cancer fundraiser aired on Sept. 5, didn’t seem to match its pre-show hype, excitement-wise. But the initiative behind the show, raising funds to fight cancer in a new and innovative way, is now out in public. And the story behind the hoopla feels fresh and hopeful as a cool autumn breeze.

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    Stand Up To Cancer is hard to pin down. They’ve got a good Web site, which is currently devoted to accepting online donations, a continuing effort from Friday’s TV show. They’ve got a “manifesto” that’s moving, inspirational, and really does make you want to stand up and fight cancer. They seem to be very well organized, judging by the online transparency of their goal (facilitating cancer research in a new and innovative way); and their plan to reach that goal, which features lots of specifics, including names. 

    What I couldn’t quite figure out was who “they” are. So I did some research. And here’s what I came up with.

    ABC national news anchor Katie Couric is one of the driving forces behind SU2C. And it’s a “charitable services fund” of the Entertainment Industry Foundation (EIF), a Los Angeles-based group that, since its inception in 1942, has raised hundreds of millions of dollars for cancer research and prevention, diabetes awareness, and arts and music education. 

    Couric worked with the EIF 8 years ago to found the National Colorectal Cancer Research Alliance after the colon cancer death of her husband, Jay Monahan. Now, Couric, the EIF, and a number of other Hollywood executives have apparently banded together to push cancer research in a new and accelerated direction.

    Principals with Couric in SU2C include Sherry Lansing, former chair of the motion picture group of Paramount Pictures. Her mother died of ovarian cancer. Laura Ziskin, a longtime movie/TV producer, was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer in 2004. Noreen Fraser (diagnosed with stage 1 breast cancer in 2001) and her husband, Woody, both long-time TV producers, founded the Noreen Fraser Foundation to find a cure for women’s cancers; they now help lead SU2C. EIF’s president and CEO, Lisa Paulsen, recently lost both her parents to cancer. The list of SU2C leaders continues, and one thing unites everyone on it: they’ve all been personally touched by cancer.

    And they’ve put their considerable weight behind a new direction in cancer research.

    Clearly, our government-based model could use some help; funding for cancer research has actually been cut over the past 8 years. Despite these cuts, scientists feel they’re tantalizingly close to answers that have proved elusive for way too long: how exactly does cancer work? How can we stop it?

    As one researcher put it on SU2C’s show Sept. 5, “You know how you get that feeling right before it rains, when you know it’s going to rain? That’s what we feel right now.” The scientific community knows the answers are right there; now’s not the time to cut off their funding lifeline.

  • That’s where SU2C comes in. They vow to facilitate “the rapid funding of innovative ideas without bureaucratic delays.” They promise to fund “young, talented, and promising” researchers via the creation of a series of well-funded “Dream Teams.” They say they’ll “accelerate the course of cancer research through raising philanthropic dollars and developing unique mechanisms to utilize these funds.” And they’ve partnered with the American Association for Cancer Research, the world’s oldest and largest professional organization dedicated to advancing cancer research.

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    Is it time for a change in how we fund and conduct cancer research? Well, why not? Change is in the air. Let’s put it to work to finally discover the cure.

    At last report, SU2C had collected donations totaling over $100 million, including any made since it started accepting them on May 28.

Published On: September 14, 2008