Demand Cures. Today.

When I worked in the Communications department for St. Jude, I often dealt with media questions about our work. Why should my town support a hospital in Memphis? Doesn’t St. Jude participate in animal testing? I was proud to defend the hospital’s work (yes, even the animal testing) because what St. Jude does is different – they are searching for cures. Not setting broken bones. Not granting wishes. Searching for cures. Trying to save lives from the deadly clutches of cancer.

It is a noble cause. When Danny Thomas founded St. Jude 50 years ago, his only intention was to open an integrated hospital where no child would be turned away because his family couldn’t afford to pay. But then a doctor said to him, “If you really want to help kids, put your money in research.” Don’t just treat kids. Find out what’s making them sick.

So you’ll have to excuse me if I don’t support organizations that spend millions increasing awareness. Thanks, but we are all aware of cancer by now.

Because that’s the thing about cancer, isn’t it? All of our lives have been touched by it in some way or another. All of us know survivors, or worse — victims.

But even the focus on research has had its downfall in the fight against this deadly disease. Because so much of the basic science research has focused on the cause and too little of it is working on the cure. Forty years after President Nixon declared a “War on Cancer,” 1,500 people are still dying from it every day.

It seems like we should be further along in this fight.

It seems like we should have more cures. Or at least better treatments. Because let’s face it: Cancer treatment is pretty barbaric. Still. Science has given us genome sequencing and bioinformatics and predictor therapies and still we basically treat cancer by poisoning the patient and hoping the healthy cells are the only ones that come back.

Much of cancer research seems to focus on curing cancer in mice. And most of these treatments are 10 to 15 years away from actually helping human patients. The process isn’t working. My sister-in-law’s diagnosis of multiple myeloma was a death sentence for her within a year. Several years later, Geraldine Ferraro lived 13 years with the same diagnosis. I guess Ellen just got sick at the wrong time in the research cycle.

When I was at the Southern Women’s Show a couple of weeks ago, I had the privilege to meet Lynette Bisconti, president of The Gateway for Cancer Research, who is looking to change how cancer research is funded and conducted. Gateway has been fighting the war on cancer for almost 20 years. In that time, they’ve funded more than 70 studies and raised $20 million for research that focuses on helping patients NOW.

Gateway provides grants to “innovative and unique clinical trials that have the potential to immediately impact the lives of cancer patients in a positive way.”

And because Cancer Treatment Centers of America underwrite Gateway’s administrative costs, 99 cents of every dollar they receive goes to finding cures.

If your life has been touched by cancer and you want to do something that will make a difference – something above and beyond buying products with a pink label – consider supporting the work of Gateway. Volunteer. Donate. Share your story. Demand Cures. Today.


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