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13th annual gala in Chicago tops $2M

More than $600,000 was raised for a new ACS program - ResearcHERS: Women Fighting Cancer

The American Cancer Society's 2019 Discovery Ball, one of Chicago's premier galas, raised more than $2.1 million this year. An after-party in the elegant Grand Ballroom in the Chicago Hilton featured a performance by the award-winning Canadian rock band, Barenaked Ladies.

The 13th annual gala, Where Hope Grows, featured UL as presenting sponsor and boasted nearly 800 guests and volunteers on Saturday, April 27.

Two individuals and two organizations were recognized for their support of American Cancer Society, and were introduced by our CEO Gary Reedy:

  • Cheryle Jackson, SVP, Global Business Development of AAR, and co-chair of the inaugural American Cancer Society ResearcHERs campaign, was recognized with the Survivorship Award in recognition of her courage, grit and grace navigating breast cancer and using her trials as an opportunity to mentor others and make a difference in their fight against cancer.
  • Longtime volunteer, Tyler Prince, is EVP for Salesforce and was recognized with the Leadership Award. From serving on our Illinois Area Board, as a vice chair of the Discovery Ball, as a Taste of Hope committee member and most courageously for sharing his story of surviving colon cancer. He has made a significant impact in the work ACS does as an organization.
  • North Chicago-headquartered global biopharmaceutical company, AbbVie, was recognized as the Lifetime Workplace Giving honoree in recognition of their lifetime giving history of more than $4.6 million to ACS. In 2018, AbbVie's annual Employee Giving Campaign raised more than $800,000 for American Cancer Society.
  • The Boeing company was recognized for their record-breaking success of Discovery Ball 2017, raising an astounding $6 million for the Society's mission, and for their innovative approach to employee engagement. This is the second time they have received the Corporate Partnership Award.

Survivor speaker Joe Koenig, president of St. Louis-based World Wide Technology shared his personal and inspiring story of tongue cancer and led guests to a paddle raise of more than $600,000 for a new ACS program, ResearcHERS: Women Fighting Cancer. A video spotlighted doctors and researchers involved in the program and included Drs. Funmi Olopade, Michelle Le Beau, Huiping Liu. and Kathy Goss, and student researchers Aysha Ahmad and Hannah Lin. The goal of ResearcHERS, rolled out this spring in North Central, South, and West Regions, is to raise more than $1 million by women to fund women-led research at ACS. The program is expected to be rolled out to all Regions next year.

Contributing to the evening's fundraising success was a spirited live auction which included a private dinner and party at TAO Chicago, a Chicago sports fan package including Bears, Bulls, and Cubs tickets, a night at the 2019 Primetime Emmy Awards, a trip to and a chance to sing on stage with featured performers Barenaked Ladies, and more.

Since 2007, the Discovery Ball has raised more than $36 million!

  • ACS aims to reduce overall cancer mortality 40% by 2035

    After continued work on tobacco control, the next most important effort is to control excess body weight

    Today, the American Cancer Society released a set of bold, nationwide challenge goals to reduce overall cancer mortality 40 percent between 2015 and 2035 – which if realized would result in approximately 1.3 million fewer cancer deaths during that period.

    The news was made public with the publication of the latest chapter of our Blueprint for Cancer Control in the 21st Century, in our peer-reviewed journal, CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians. This series of scientific journal articles, released over the past year, describes our organization's vision and defines the path for how cancer prevention, screening, diagnosis, and treatment can reduce cancer suffering and death.

    In 1996, the Society set a challenge goal to reduce mortality from all cancers combined in the U.S. by 50 percent between 1990 and 2015. An evaluation at the end of that period found mortality rate declined 26 percent over that time. Recent research suggests that cancer mortality in the U.S. can still be lowered considerably by applying known interventions broadly and equitably. In light of that, the ACS Board of Directors commissioned ACS researchers to determine new challenge goals for reductions in cancer mortality by 2035.

    Using statistical modeling, ACS investigators first estimated the average annual percent decline in overall cancer death rates during 2001-2015 among the U.S. population at-large (1.5 percent) and among Americans with a college education (2.6 percent). They then applied the faster decline among those with a college education to the entire population starting in 2020 to project future potential improvement, estimating that death rates in 2035 would drop by 38.3 percent (approximately 40 percent) from 2015 levels. Reaching the goal of a 40 percent drop in overall cancer mortality could lead to approximately 1.3 million fewer cancer deaths during the 15-year span.

    "The faster drops in cancer mortality among college graduates largely reflect differences in prevalence of cancer risk factors, in the uptake of cancer screening, and in access to and utilization of high-quality care," said RichWender, MD, our chief cancer control officer and co-author of the report. "It's clear that not all segments of the U.S. populations have benefited equally from the advances made against cancer, and that cancer mortality could be lowered considerably by applying known interventions equitably and broadly."

    The authors also map out a potential pathway to the goal. They estimate that if by 2025, the overall prevalence of several major cancer risk factors (smoking, excess body weight, low fruit and vegetable consumption, red and processed meat consumption, low fiber consumption, low calcium consumption, alcohol intake, physical inactivity, and nonadherence to evidence-based use of tamoxifen/raloxifene for breast cancer prevention) could be lowered to rates that currently exist among college graduates, and if levels of colorectal and breast cancer screening could do the same by 2030, there would be a 20.5 percent drop in the overall cancer death rate by 2035, achieving half the goal. If risk factor prevalence and screening rates could become even more optimal, then the overall cancer death rate could drop by 33.5 percent, reaching 85 percent of the challenge goal.

    In addition to the overall cancer mortality goal, the researchers estimated challenge goals for the four cancers that together account for nearly half of all cancer deaths and have been the main driver for the steady decline in the overall cancer death rates over the past 25 years: cancers of the lung, prostate, breast, and colorectum. The goals target those sites with mortality decreases of 50 percent for lung cancer, 55 percent for colorectal cancer, 40 percent for female breast cancer, and 55 percent for prostate cancer between 2015 and 2035.

    "The greatest pay-off in terms of cancer deaths prevented is through continued work on tobacco control," write the authors. But they say the next most important effort is one to control excess body weight. "This would require a change in the behavior of the U.S. population and in U.S.'s culture of a magnitude very similar to the changes regarding smoking since the mid-1960s."

    They note though that the obesity epidemic and increasing unhealthy diets are likely to continue, making targeted interventions necessary to slow down or reverse these unfavorable trends.

    Blueprint resources for staff:

  • Medical costs create hardships for more than half of Americans

    Dr. Yabroff appeared on NBC Nightly News.

    A new study by American Cancer Society researchers finds medical financial hardship is very common among people in the U.S., with more than half reporting problems with affordability, stress, or delaying care because of cost. The study, appearing early online in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, estimates more than 100 million people in the U.S. experience medical financial hardship.

    The study was released May 2 and drew a lot of media attention. Here is a sampling:

    High out-of-pocket spending for medical care is an increasingly critical issue for U.S. It can lead to a depletion of assets and medical debt, as well as distress and worry about household finances. Patients may delay or forgo needed medical care because of cost, jeopardizing benefits of treatment. Illness can also impact the ability to work and reduce productivity, limiting household income, and potentially reducing access to employer-sponsored health insurance in the working age population ages 18-64 years.

    While many studies have looked at the financial toll of a cancer diagnosis, less is known about financial hardship in the general population, outside of oncology. For the latest study, researchers led by Robin Yabroff, PhD, (pictured here), assessed the prevalence of material (e.g., problems paying medical bills), psychological (e.g., worry about medical bills), and behavioral (delaying or forgoing medical care because of cost) domains of financial hardship using data from the 2015-2017 National Health Interview Survey.

    They found overall, 56.0 % of adults reported at least one domain of medical financial hardship, representing 137.1 million adults in the United States. Compared with those 65 years and older, adults 18 to 64 reported higher material (28.9% vs. 15.3%), psychological (46.9% vs. 28.4%) and behavioral (21.2% vs. 12.7%) medical financial hardship.

    Among adults 18 to 64, those with less educational attainment and more health conditions were more likely to report great intensity of hardship. Women were more likely to report multiple domains of hardship than men. And the uninsured were more likely to report multiple domains of hardship (52.8%), compared to those with some public (26.5%) and private insurance (23.2%).

    The authors say unless action is taken, the problem is likely to worsen. "With increasing prevalence of multiple chronic conditions; higher patient cost-sharing; and higher costs of healthcare; the risk of hardship will likely increase in the future. Thus, development and evaluation of the comparative effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of strategies to minimize medical financial hardship will be important."

  • Patients with a late diagnosis of metastatic cancer may be overtreated

    Study shows a need to better identify patients who may benefit more from end-of-life care than treatment to prolong life

    Nearly 30% of people who died within one month of being diagnosed with an incurable cancer got aggressive treatment that may have been ineffective, according to a new American Cancer Society (ACS) study. Those treatments included surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, and hormone therapy. The study authors suggest more research is needed to better identify cancer patients who will not benefit from treatment to prolong life and who should instead be referred for end-of-life-care.

    Planning treatment for patients who are diagnosed with cancer after it’s widespread, or metastasized, is complicated, said Helmneh M. Sineshaw, MD, MPH, pictured here. He is a principal scientist at ACS. “There hasn’t been much research about the differences in treatment in these patients who die soon after diagnosis.” ACS researchers aimed to fill this knowledge gap with a study published on April 15, 2019, in JNCI Cancer Spectrum.

    Sineshaw led a team of researchers from the ACS, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, Baptist Cancer Center in Memphis, and the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in Rochester, MN. They looked at treatment patterns from 100,848 adults who died within one month of being diagnosed with metastatic lung, colorectal, breast, or pancreatic cancer. 

    “The treatment for someone with an incurable cancer who isn’t expected to live long is generally to ease pain and improve quality of life—not active treatment directed at the cancer,” Sineshaw explains.

    The researchers found that most patients (72.6%) didn’t receive active treatment. But nearly 30% received aggressive treatment. The patients most likely to receive aggressive treatment had colorectal cancer (37.2%), followed by breast (34.9%), lung (29%), and pancreatic cancer (29%). Patients' treatment also varied by age, health insurance, and type of treatment facility.

    "The differences we saw in care suggest that some treatment decisions were appropriate, and some were inappropriate,” Sineshaw said. Whether the treatments patients received were ineffective still needs more research.

    One promising finding was that the use of some treatments progressively declined over the 10 years studied, Sineshaw said. “This may mean that healthcare teams and patients and their families are better evaluating quality of life vs length of life and benefits of care vs cost of that care.”

    The researchers used data from the National Cancer Data Base (NCDB), which is jointly sponsored by the ACS and the American College of Surgeons. The data did not include what influenced treatment decisions.

    “We know, however, that treatment decisions can be influenced by many complex issues,” said Sineshaw. “Patients with incurable cancers and their doctors can overestimate how long they can survive, too.” Other research has shown that it’s not unusual for these patients to mistakenly think treatment can still cure their cancer.

    "This study helped us gain insights about treatment people received in the month between their diagnosis of metastatic cancer and death," Sineshaw said. "But our data did not allow us to compare patients who received treatment and then lived longer because of that treatment," he added. "We also didn't have information about the use of palliative care. We need more research to understand how to predict the expected length of life for patients in this unique population, so we can better guide care decisions,” Sineshaw said.

    This story first appeared on

  • ACS study finds that a type of cervical cancer is increasing in non-Hispanic whites

    Changing trends underscore importance of HPV prevention and early detection efforts

    A new American Cancer Society study reports that a type of cervical cancer that is less amenable to Pap testing is increasing in several subpopulations of women, pointing to the growing importance of human papillomavirus (HPV) testing and vaccination. The study appears early online in Preventive Medicine.

    Overall trends in cervical cancer incidence have been driven by declines in squamous cell carcinoma, which account for the majority of cervical cancers. Most of the rest are adenocarcinomas, for which Pap testing is less sensitive. While overall cervical cancer rates have been dropping for decades, cervical adenocarcinomas seem to have become more common in the past 20 to 30 years. But there has been limited reporting on recent trends.

    To learn more, investigators led by Farhad Islami, MD, PhD, (pictured here), analyzed recent cervical cancer incidence trends by histology and age in the U.S. They examined trends in squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma incidence rates in the U.S. by age group, race/ethnicity, and stage at diagnosis using data from the U.S. Cancer Statistics Incidence Analytic Database.

    They found squamous cell carcinoma incidence rates continued to decrease in all racial/ethnic groups except among non-Hispanic whites, in whom rates stopped dropping in the 2010s. For adenocarcinoma, after being stable between 1999 and 2002, incidence rates among non-Hispanic whites rose 1.3% per year during 2002–2015. Those increases were driven by steeper increases in women ages 40 to 49, among whom cervical adenocarcinoma rates rose 4.4% per year since 2004, and women 50 to 59 years, among whom rates rose 5.5% per year since 2011. Adenocarcinoma incidence decreased in blacks and Hispanics during 1999–2015 and was stable in Asian/Pacific Islanders.

    "Increasing or stabilized incidence trends for [adenocarcinoma] and attenuation of earlier declines for [squamous cell carcinoma] in several subpopulations underscore the importance of intensifying efforts to reverse the increasing trends and further reduce the burden of cervical cancer in the U.S.," write the authors.

    The authors state that "more efforts are needed to increase screening utilization according to guidelines and appropriate follow-up of positive results" to further reduce the burden of cervical cancer. They note that increasing the use of HPV testing may improve early detection of adenocarcinoma, but they also recommend research to further improve screening strategies to reduce overdiagnosis, which may be more common with HPV testing. HPV vaccination is an effective tool to prevent cervical cancer because virtually all these cancers are caused by HPV infection. "Our results also underscore the importance of HPV vaccination. Concerted efforts are needed to increase its use, which remains suboptimal" said Dr. Islami.

    Co-authors of this study include Stacey Fedewa, PhD, and Ahmedin Jemal, DVM, PhD.

  • ACS research article on walking earns significant recognition

    Congratulations to Alpa Patel, PhD, whose article “Walking in Relation to Mortality in a Large Prospective Cohort of Older U.S. Adults,” was named its 2018 Article of the Year by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine (AJPM).

    Every year the editors at AJPM review all papers published in the journal over the previous calendar year to select  the most influential manuscript. The decision is based on readership, downloads and discussions, and sharing through mainstream media, blogs, social networks, and the AJPM website.

    The study led by Alpa found that people who got even a little walking at a moderate pace had a decreased risk of death compared with those who did little or no activity. Those who walked at or above recommended levels decreased their risk even more. Read more here.

    "Please accept our congratulations on your achievement and consider this letter as formal acknowledgment of your substantial contribution to AJPM and excellence in advancing preventive medicine through written scholarship. We are also pleased to offer you a cash award of $1,500 in recognition of your research accomplishments," said Editor-in-Chief Matthew L. Boulton, MD, MPH, in his letter of congratulations.

    Alpa, senior scientific director, Epidemiology Research, is donating the money to her department's Relay For Life team.

    "I was very excited for our organization to be recognized in this way," said Alpa. "Being selected as Paper of the Year represents the hard work of our Behavioral and Epidemiology Research Group, and the hard work of our media relations team, especially David Sampson. Most importantly though, this work highlights to the public the value of research at the American Cancer Society; research that is possible because of the Society’s staff and volunteer commitment to the Cancer Prevention Studies." 

    Also contributing to the article were these ACS scientists in our Intramural Research department: Corinne R. Leach, PhD, senior principal scientist, Behavioral Research; Peter T. Campbell, scientific director, Epidemiology Research; Ying Wang, PhD, principal scientist, Epidemiology Research; and Susan M. Gapstur, PhD, senior VP, Behavioral and Epidemiology Research. Also contributing was Colleen Doyle, MS, managing director, Nutrition and Physical Activity, Cancer Control.

  • ACS study: Prostate cancer diagnoses, deaths decreasing worldwide

    Prostate cancer incidence and mortality rates are decreasing or stabilizing in most parts of the world, with the U.S. recording the biggest drop in incidence, according to results presented Tuesday at the American Association of Cancer Research meeting in Atlanta.

    Still, prostate cancer remains the second most commonly diagnosed cancer and the sixth leading cause of cancer death among men worldwide.

    “Previous studies have indicated significant variation in prostate cancer rates, due to factors including detection practices, availability of treatment, and genetic factors,” said the study’s lead author, MaryBeth Freeman, MPH, senior associate scientist, Surveillance Research, at the Society. “By comparing rates from different countries, we can assess differences in detection practices and improvements in treatment.”

    Researchers examined prostate cancer incidence and mortality patterns across five continents using the most recent cancer incidence data from the International Agency for Research on Cancer and mortality data from the World Health Organization. They examined long-term trends, from 1980 through 2012, for 38 countries that provided “high-quality” data, and short-term trends for 44 countries with available incidence data and 71 countries with available mortality data. The short-term data encompassed a five-year period that varied slightly among nations, but most often reflected 2008-2012.

    Of the 44 countries examined for incidence data, prostate cancer rates during the most recent five-year period increased in four countries, with Bulgaria showing the largest increase. Rates decreased in seven countries, with the U.S. showing the largest decrease. Rates stabilized in the remaining 33 countries.

    Among the 71 countries analyzed for mortality rates, rates decreased in 14 countries, increased in three countries, and remained stable in 54 countries.

    Globally, as of 2012, prostate cancer was the most commonly diagnosed cancer among men in 96 countries and the leading cause of death in 51 countries.

    Other findings:

    • The highest incidence rates in the most recent five-year period were found in Brazil, Lithuania, and Australia.
    • The lowest incidence rates in the most recent five-year period were found in India, Thailand, and Bahrain.
    • The highest mortality rates in the most recent five-year period were found in the Caribbean, specifically Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, and Cuba; South Africa; Lithuania; Estonia; and Latvia.
    • The lowest mortality rates in the most recent five-year period were found in Thailand and Turkmenistan.

    Freeman said she and colleagues were surprised and pleased to see that so many nations have achieved stability in prostate cancer rates, meaning that rates have not increased during the period examined. In coming years, she said, global health experts would hope for more nations to move from stability toward decreasing incidence and mortality rates.

    She said the study confirmed the impact of prostate-specific antigen (PSA) screening. She explained that in the U.S., prostate cancer incidence rates increased from the 1980s to the early 1990s, then declined from the mid-2000s through 2015, largely due to patterns of PSA screening.  This type of screening is less available in lower-income nations, contributing to diagnosis at later stages and higher mortality rates.

    Freeman pointed out that some nations plan to scale back recommendations for PSA screening, as it is believed to lead to diagnosis and possible overtreatment of prostate cancer cases that would never become symptomatic. “Overall, patients should be having an informed discussion with their providers about the benefits and harms of PSA testing for detection of prostate cancer,” she said. “Future studies should monitor trends in mortality rates and late-stage disease to assess the impact of reduction in PSA testing in several countries.”

  • New ACS report on cancer prevention and early detection delivers sobering statistics

    While many proven strategies exist to reduce cancer risk, their application has been suboptimal, especially in socioeconomically deprived populations.

    The American Cancer Society's review on recent cancer prevention and early detection efforts in the U.S. finds there's a long way to go before Americans fully adopt behaviors that can reduce cancer risk. 

    The good news, as we know, is that cancer death rates in the U.S. have dropped 27% between 1991 and 2016. The bad news is that many cancers could be prevented that are not. About 45% of the estimated 607,000 cancer deaths expected to occur in the U.S. this year are associated with potentially modifiable risk factors, such as cigarette smoking, excess body weight, alcohol intake, physical inactivity, and unhealthy diet. Cigarette smoking alone accounts for approximately 29% of all cancer deaths.

    This comprehensive overview of major cancer risk factors and screening utilization in the U.S. was published today in Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention, and accompanies our biennial report, Cancer Prevention and Early Detection Facts & Figures, which also includes data on youth risk factors and vaccination. 

    The authors of the article are our colleagues in Intramural Research: Ann Goding Sauer, MSPH, lead writer; Rebecca L. Siegel, MPH; Ahmedin Jemal, DVM, PhD; and Stacey A. Fedewa, PhD.

    Below are highlights of the report:


    In 2017, more than 34 million adults were current smokers (16.0% of men; 12.3% of women; 14.1% overall). Despite significant overall declines, smoking prevalence remains substantially higher among some populations. For example, while only 5.0% of female college graduates smoke, 30.1% of men with less than a high school education were smokers, a six-fold difference. Among both men and women, smoking prevalence was lowest among Asians (10.6% and 3.6%, respectively) and highest among American Indian/Alaska Natives (27.3% and 21.5%, respectively).

    Excess body weight

    Excess body weight is defined as being overweight or obese; in 2015-2016, approximately 7 in 10 adults had excess body weight. While the prevalence of overweight has remained relatively stable among adults since the early 1960s, obesity has increased markedly. In 1960-1962, 10.7% of men and 15.8% of women were obese; in 2015-2016, these proportions were 37.9% and 41.1%, respectively, representing about 93.3 million adults. Over half of black (54.9%) and Hispanic (50.6%) women were classified as obese compared with 38.0% of white women.


    In 2014, about 4% of all cancer deaths in the U.S. could be attributed to alcohol consumption. In 2017, an estimated 5.3% of adults were classified as heavier drinkers (>14 drinks per week for men; >7 drinks/week for women) with similar prevalence by gender. Heavier alcohol consumption increased with higher levels of education among women (2.6% of those with less than a high school diploma vs. 7.3% of college graduates); among men there was little variation by education. Among both men and women, the proportion of heavier drinking was higher among whites (men: 5.9%, women: 7.0%) than other race/ethnicities.


    About 5% of cancer deaths in 2014 were attributed to poor diet. Overall, most Americans do not meet the guidelines for healthy eating. In 2017, only about 16% of adults reported consuming three or more servings of vegetables per day. About 1 in 3 adults reported eating two or more servings of fruit daily. Vegetable consumption was substantially lower among Hispanics and blacks relative to whites, Asians, and American Indian/Alaska Natives; fruit consumption was less variable.

    Physical activity

    An estimated 2% of cancer deaths can be attributed to physical inactivity. More than 1 in 4 U.S. adults (26.2%) reported no leisure-time physical activity, with a marked disparity along educational lines: nearly half (48.7%) of people with less than a high school education reported no leisure time activities compared with 14.4% of college graduates.

    Ultraviolet Radiation

    An estimated 1.5% of cancer deaths can be attributed to UV radiation from the sun and indoor tanning. In 2015, more than 1 in 3 adults (35.4%) reported at least one sunburn in the previous year. Among adults, indoor tanning in the past year declined from 5.5% in 2010 to 3.6% in 2015.

    Cancer Screening

    Early detection of cancer through screening reduces mortality from cancers of the breast, uterine cervix, colon, rectum, and lung. In addition, screening for colorectal and cervical cancers can prevent these cancers by identifying and removing precancerous lesions.

    • Breast: In 1987, less than one-third (29%) of women 40 years and older reported having a mammogram within the past two years. That number rose to 70% by 2000, but in 2015 had dropped to 64%. Mammography use in the past two years was lowest among the uninsured (31%).* An estimated 55% of women 45 years and older with less than a high school degree reported having a mammogram within the past two years compared to about 78% of college graduates.
    • Cervical: Among women ages 21 to 65, 83% were up-to-date with cervical cancer screening in 2015. Only about 72% of women with less than a high school education were up-to-date with cervical cancer screening compared to about 91% of college graduates. Uptake was lowest among the uninsured (64%) and recent immigrants (70%).*
    • Colorectal: In 2015, 63% of adults ages 50 years and older were up-to date for colorectal cancer screening. Prevalence was less than or equal to 50% among Hispanics, Asians, people with less than a high school diploma, recent immigrants, and the uninsured.*
    • Lung: In 2015, only 4% of eligible former and current smokers reported having a low-dose computed tomography screening for lung cancer in the past year.

    Authors' conclusions

    "With a few exceptions, men and women with lower educational attainment reported both a higher prevalence of modifiable cancer risk factors and lower utilization of potentially life-saving cancer screenings," write the authors. Patterns of cancer risk factors and screening by race/ethnicity are more complex and reflect cultural factors that influence behaviors.

    "Reducing these modifiable cancer risk factors and improving cancer screening will require broad implementation of national, state, and local policies, social/community efforts, as well as individual behavioral interventions." They conclude "Such systematic efforts should be enhanced across all populations, particularly those most at risk, including those with lower [socioeconomic status] and racial/ethnic minorities."

  • ACS awards $40 million in new research and training grants

    Grants will fund investigators at 65 institutions across the U.S.

    In the first of two grant cycles for 2019, the American Cancer Society approved funding for 93 research and training grants totaling $40,277,750. Eighty-six are new grants, while seven are renewals of previous grants. All the grants go into effect July 1, 2019. View the full list here.

    Highlights of the current cycle: 

    • Dirk Hockemeyer, University of California, Berkeley, will investigate the mechanism by which mutations in the telomerase gene result in cancer cell immortality and to what extent these mutations are driving melanoma progression. Telomerase mutations are found in 10-15% of all cancers and in 70% of melanomas.
    • Taru Muranen, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, will utilize patient-derived pancreatic cancer organoids (so-called as they are considered mini-organs) together with stromal cells to identify effective drug combinations that could enhance the effectiveness of current therapies in pancreatic cancer, one of the most lethal types of cancer.
    • Daniel R. Wahl of the University of Michigan is studying the factors that make glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) brain tumors resistant to radiation. The aim is to inhibit certain metabolic pathways that appear altered in cancer cells to make radiation treatments more effective.
    • Tyler Risom of Stanford University will lead a project that seeks to identify which ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) tumors will progress to invasive breast cancer, using a new microscope technology called Multiplexed Ion Beam Imaging (MIBI), which allows 40+ distinct protein markers to be seen simultaneously within a single tumor image. The work has the potential to greatly reduce patient over-treatment and expand the availability of effective drugs for the patients that need it.
    • Avonne Connor of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD, will investigate the roles of tumor type, overall health status, and socioeconomic status on outcomes for African American and Hispanic breast cancer survivors.

    Health Professional Training grants include:

    • Two new sites were awarded Training Grants in Clinical Oncology Social Work -- the University of Rochester and Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia. Four other sites successfully renewed their existing support. The grants train second-year master’s students to provide psychosocial services to cancer patients and their families.
    • Twelve new grants to support doctoral study were awarded to 10 oncology nurses and two oncology social workers. Matthew LeBlanc of Duke University, Durham, NC, will work to identify needs among a newly growing group of cancer survivors: those with multiple myeloma. New treatments have led to impressive survival gains. This extended survival comes at a cost; patients are on perpetual treatment as they consistently transition to new medications when previous therapies stop working. He expects that findings from the study will help direct future research, intervention development, and clinical practice.

    The American Cancer Society Extramural Research program currently supports research and training in a wide range of cancer-related disciplines at more than 200 institutions. With an investment of more than $4.8 billion since 1946, the ACS is the largest private, not-for-profit source of cancer research funds in the U.S., and has funded 47 researchers who have gone on to be awarded the Nobel Prize. 

    The program primarily funds early career investigators, giving the best and the brightest a chance to explore cutting-edge ideas at a time when they might not find funding elsewhere. In addition, the Extramural Research program focuses on needs that are unmet by other funding organizations.


    The Council for Extramural Research also approved 101 grant applications for funding, totaling $47,290,250 that could not be funded due to budgetary constraints. These “pay-if” applications represent work that passed the Society’s multi-disciplinary review process but are beyond the Society’s current funding resources. They can be and often are subsidized by donors who wish to support research that would not otherwise be funded. In 2018, more than $7 million in additional funding helped finance 32 “pay-if” applications. 

    For more information about the American Cancer Society Research Program, please visit

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