Hope Funds for Cancer Research was founded in 2006 with the observation that the scientific and medical communities have made great strides in treating high-prevalence cancers and very little progress in the harder-to-treat lower-prevalence cancers. For instance, as a result of the introduction of rituximab in the mid to late 1990s, progression-free survival for non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma patients has increased to 50 months from the expected 12 months prior to the drug’s introduction. We have also observed this phenomenon in certain leukemias, breast cancer, colon cancer and lung cancer. The hypothesis was that funding played a role. Not surprisingly, patients with the cancers just mentioned account for the largest addressable patient populations within cancer.
Our research concluded that the types of cancers where the least treatment progress has been made are also generally the lowest in prevalence, but in some cases in the mid- to high-range for incidence. Often, these patients live for a short time, so the pool of patients remains small. The result is that there are fewer patients to advocate for better therapies and the addressable market is less exciting for drug developers. These cancers include: pancreatic, lung, liver, sarcomas, esophageal, brain, gastric, bone and ovarian cancers; rare leukemias, lymphomas and MDS; and rarer histologies of higher prevalence cancers.
Armed with this information, Hope Funds for Cancer Research was formed by concerned people who have experience in basic science, oncology, intellectual property law, investment banking, philanthropy, sociology and the arts to establish a funding vehicle that would take a rational scientific, medical and investment approach to grant-making for the most interesting and promising research efforts to address these cancers.
Hope Funds honors, with an annual medal, individuals or organizations who have made a significant impact to patient care. The Hope Funds considers research scientists, drug-sponsors, key opinion-leader physicians, philanthrophers, survivors and advocates. The primary activity of the foundation is to award fellowships to young researchers who have the highest probability of making an impact in these hardest-to-treat cancers. The organization continues to involve as many people as possible who have been part of the process of turning death sentence cancers into chronic disease.
As Hope Funds for Cancer Research approaches its 10th Anniversary it has completed funding of 14 fellowships, which resulted in ten of these programs being published in top-tier journals and eight of these Fellows having already received faculty appointments. In addition to these 14 completed fellowships, Hope Funds is currently funding 15 fellowships, with four of these having already been published.