Sponsor Content

American Cancer Society: An Innovative Approach to Funding That Pays Off

Photo credit: iStock/alvarez

Photo credit: iStock/alvarez

Those in the business of medical advancements know it’s one often rife with challenges: limited funding, insufficient resources and lengthy developmental periods. These strains make it difficult for researchers (particularly new ones) to get their research (particularly innovative or fresh ideas) off the floor. During a time when many research funders balk at providing support for new projects, the American Cancer Society doubled down on its commitment to launch talented young scientists, announcing a goal to double their already groundbreaking research funding to $240 million by 2021. 

The American Cancer Society, the top funder of cancer research outside of the federal government, currently spends about $120 million per year in new grants to academic research institutions and in research by American Cancer Society investigators. While Federal funding has increasingly gone to mid-career scientists in recent decades, the American Cancer Society focuses its support on beginning investigators. That commitment to fostering the next generation of leaders has paid off — 47 of its funded researchers have been awarded Nobel Prizes, and many have played a part in other significant breakthroughs.

To reach their funding goals and achieve these landmark advancements, the American Cancer Society taps into resources across the country — from individual donations to larger contributions. One of those resources is CEOs Against Cancer, a coalition of 18 chief executives from across Pennsylvania who are committed to curing cancer. CEOs Against Cancer fundraises to award grants to cancer researchers who have submitted proposals deemed outstanding and worthy of funding by the American Cancer Society following a rigorous scientific peer review process.

One beneficiary of the American Cancer Society’s innovative approach to funding is Alexander Perl, MD, Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Division of Hematology/Oncology at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Perl received a $729,000 research grant from CEOs Against Cancer to develop a revolutionary test to identify better treatment options for older adults who’ve been diagnosed with leukemia. The goal is that the test will eventually be applied to future clinical trials, becoming even more impactful in the treatment of those with cancer.

The chief executives who voted on the funding praised Dr. Perl’s work, saying, “This is important research that could represent the next big breakthrough in the fight against cancer.”

According to CEOs Against Cancer director Jennifer Lombardo, Perl is hard at work.

“He’s already started, so his lab is active at this point. It will be a four year research grant, so over the next [several] years he’ll be utilizing those funds.”

The 2016 CEOs Against Cancer fundraising event will be held Friday, Sept. 30, and will feature an acoustic performance with Graham Nash, GRAMMY® Award winner and two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee with Crosby Stills & Nash and the Hollies. Visit cancer.org for more information.

Each month, UnitedHealthcare is celebrating Philadelphia’s true trailblazers. Click here to learn more about these local innovators.