Funding Research is an Investment in Your Future
This article was written by Sharon Prachnik, left, a Relay For Life team captain in New England.
Recently I had the opportunity to have dinner as a guest of the American Cancer Society at the Harvard Club in Boston. This dinner was part of a three-day symposium for postdocs. I have no doubt that many of you are smarter than I am, and that you know what a postdoc is. I had to Google the definition. I have included this definition (courtesy of Wikipedia) for any of you who need a refresher:
Postdoctoral research is scholarly research conducted by a person who has recently completed doctoral studies, normally within the previous five years. It is intended to further deepen expertise in a specialist subject, including acquiring novel skills and methods. Postdoctoral research is often considered essential to acquiring advanced training for the trainee while advancing the scholarly mission of the host laboratory and/or institution, and is expected to produce relevant publications accordingly.
Now, with that information shared, I want to tell you how important all of your donations have been to these postdocs. I had the pleasure of sitting next to Jen Perry, a Postdoc Fellow at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. Her particular focus is on juvenile bone cancer. She works at Dana-Farber not for Dana-Farber. Her small salary is paid by the American Cancer Society. She is able to do her research on juvenile bone cancer thanks to all the donations collected by participants in Relay For Life and other American Cancer Society events.
One of my questions for Jen was, “Why is it that some cancers (like breast cancer) seem so treatable while others (like ovarian or small cell lung) are not?” Her response was that there is a tremendous amount of focus and fundraising done for breast cancer, so the research is greater. There are so many other cancers that do not get that amount of focus, so the research is slower. ACS doesn’t focus on one particular cancer.
The researchers are learning that it is not the cancer that needs to be treated, but the patient. Even though two people may seem to have the “same type” of cancer, each patient and cancer reacts differently to treatment. Breast cancer is not just breast cancer, there are at least three different areas of the breast that can be the cause or starting point of cancer. While treating one “type” of cancer, mutations occur, requiring new treatments.
I also asked her, “What should I tell someone who is undecided about donating money to the American Cancer Society?” Her response: "The support is needed desperately to continue the research done by these postdocs. They are learning what works and, just as importantly, what doesn’t work. Since the ACS started funding young researchers, 46 of them have gone on to win the Nobel Prize. For every 10 young postdocs, only one is given this opportunity because of lack of funding. That means there is a good chance that the one researcher with an answer may be turned away."
Your donations not only support programs for patients and their families, they also support your future. I have learned, especially after this year, that you don’t know who, when, or how hard this disease is going to hit. We need these young researchers to continue trying, failing, and fighting for answers.
Relayers are making the fight for everyone a bit easier. Your donations are not going to make someone more wealthy; they are going to create more birthdays.