By Michael Burton
President and CEO, Gateway for Cancer Research
“Individually we are one drop but together, we are an ocean.”
The words of the late Japanese poet Ryunosuke Saturo inspire me with a reminder: there is power in numbers. Cancer, in all its complexity, is a daunting problem that challenges every one of us professionally, and too often personally. No single physician, researcher, philanthropist, university, drug company, patient advocate, investor, or government agency—no individual drop of water—can bring cancer to heel alone. But working in partnership, the global oncology community is a mighty river with the power to make real, sustainable advances against cancer.
In June, Gateway for Cancer Research and Conquer Cancer, the ASCO Foundation, announced a new scientific partnership to establish the Gateway Discovery Grant Program. With our shared mission to accelerate cancer research breakthroughs, our collaboration brings the high-caliber science and peer review of ASCO together with Gateway’s powerful mission to identify those avenues of scientific inquiry most ripe for discovery and fund the clinician-scientists who are best positioned to pursue them.
The biennial $1.5 million award is a significant new source of funding for innovative phase I and phase II clinical trials with the potential to change the standard of oncology care. The inaugural Discovery Grant is focused on cancer immunotherapy, a promising field already yielding therapies that have led to complete remissions for some patients with aggressive blood cancers, advanced melanoma, and lung cancer. I’m pleased to report that more than 30 applications have been received, and we expect to announce the first Gateway Discovery Grant recipient on February 1, 2020.
In today’s increasingly challenging biomedical research funding climate, such partnerships to share resources and leverage complementary expertise have never been more important to our success in bringing new and better therapies to patients with cancer. Federal funding levels for cancer research have been stagnant for close to 20 years. With paylines hovering around the eighth percentile, federal agencies such as the NCI today provide less than half of total funding for basic science, according to the National Science Foundation.
The pain points are very real. Fortunately, industry, universities, foundations, investors, and philanthropic organizations and individuals are stepping in to close the gap. Innovative funding partnerships at every level are the new reality in the field of cancer research. Nonprofit organizations are joining forces to develop new grant awards like the Gateway Discovery Grant. University technology transfer officers are partnering their researchers with industry and investors to commercialize discoveries and speed new therapies to market. Patient advocates and foundations are collaborating to raise much-needed funds, support clinical trial recruitment, and advocate for increased funding. It seems as if exciting new partnership opportunities are announced every day.
For more than 25 years, Gateway for Cancer Research has been dedicated to funding transformational cancer research worldwide to help people living with cancer feel better, live longer, and conquer the disease. We actively pursue and embrace strategic partnerships across the cancer community that drive our collective progress against the disease. We are proud to partner with Conquer Cancer to establish this high-impact grant program, and we are confident that Gateway Discovery Grants will significantly contribute to and accelerate progress for the patients we serve. I am excited and encouraged by the depth of innovation in cancer research and the creative funding partnerships that drive advances in clinical care.
I hope Ryunosuke’s words inspire you too, and I welcome your feedback on the power of partnerships in the fight against cancer. Alone, we can only do so much. Together, we can move mountains for the patients we serve.