Thursday, September 15, 2011

Around Town: Someday there will be a cure

Hope is on the way.

In 2008, a group of women, including Rusty Robertson, Katie Couric, Sherry Lansing, Lisa Paulsen, Laura Ziskin, Noreen Fraser, Sue Schwartz and Ellen Ziffren, launched a new project called Stand Up To Cancer.

These women were leaders in the media and entertainment industry, women whose lives had been touched by cancer.

They brought a new determination to the table. They brought their skills, their knowledge and their common sense.

They knew that too many had suffered. They knew that something needed to change.

In three short years, Stand Up to Cancer has raised more than $300 million for cancer research. More importantly, the organization has set new standards for effective transparency in the fundraising and cancer research grant processes.

Check out the organization’s website at

The organization has had a pair of telethons on major broadcast networks — one on Sept. 5, 2008 and another on Sept. 10, 2010. Each telethon raised more than $100 million. They’ve had fundraisers at ball parks through Major League Baseball.

The group’s funding model makes sense. About 10% is kept for an endowment. All other funds immediately go to research. Why sit on the funds when there’s work to do?

You’ve got to love a nonprofit when its website allows you to click through to a section called, “Where the money goes.”

Most of the funds go to research “dream teams.” The dream team grants are awarded under the guidance of the American Association for Cancer Research. The dream teams are required to collaborate. Each team has a patient or patient advocate who asks the researchers to speed it up. The goal is to accelerate the research. The goal is to find cures today, not in 20 years.

There are also innovative research grants that are given to young investigators who might not otherwise gain funding.

And now the results are coming in fast and furious. It’s all on their website.

What makes Stand Up to Cancer unique is that the organizers have applied their professional skills to this task.

They say that “the power of collaboration and cooperation are at the heart of [Stand Up to Cancer].”

Outside Washington D.C.’s beltway and outside academia, here in the real world, we all know that collaboration works. We all know the value of transparency. We know the need for cures.

Last June, one of the founders of Stand Up To Cancer, film producer Laura Ziskin, died. Her cancer, diagnosed back in 2004, was diagnosed too late. Ziskin’s professional credits include “Pretty Woman” (sole producer), “Courage Under Fire,” “Spider-Man” (1, 2 & 3), and “As Good As It Gets.” But her real credits include her cancer activism. Ziskin inspired her friends to start Stand Up To Cancer. She inspires them still and some day there will be a cure.

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