The Conquer Cancer Foundation: Funding The Hopes Of Many

Conquer Cancer Foundation Tom RobertsRecently I had the pleasure of participating in a Conquer Cancer Foundation event at the home of my friend, Dr. Thomas Roberts and his beautiful wife Susan. Tom used to be an attending staff oncologist at Massachusetts General Hospital and an instructor of medicine at Harvard Medical School before joining Farallon, one of the first hedge funds in the world to manage university endowments.

My favorite thing about Tom is not that he's a very smart and successful guy. The thing that stands out most about Tom is how nice and thoughtful he is. You might think a man of his stature wouldn't bother hanging around with someone like me, yet he's been nothing but kind and magnanimous with his time. We met on the tennis court several years ago and have been good friends ever since.

Tom is on the board of the Conquer Cancer Foundation and I've promised to help him spread the word about this devastating disease that has affected so many. Although I cannot match the funds that many generous benefactors have offered, I do have an online platform to help raise awareness. My grandfather died of skin cancer before the age of 65 and my good friend's father was recently diagnosed with bladder cancer. It seems like everybody I know has been affected by cancer to some degree, whether it be a family member, close friend, neighbor, or colleague.

Here are some cancer statistics:

* One out of every two men and one out of every three women will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime.

* There will be over 1.6 million new cancer cases diagnosed and nearly 600,000 cancer deaths in the US in 2014.

* Cancer remains the second most common cause of death in the US, accounting for nearly 1 of every 4 deaths.

* There are nearly 14.4 million survivors worldwide.


This is what the Conquer Foundation does in their own words: 

We’re working to achieve a world free from the fear of cancer through three primary strategies:

1) Research and Discovery

* Research Grants And Awards: We support the brightest minds in clinical/translational cancer research – including areas underfunded by others (e.g., palliative care, rare cancers)

* Over the past 30 years, support has been awarded to more than 1,000 researchers worldwide

2) Education and Knowledge

* Physician Education: CCF supports physician research and education programs in the U.S. and internationally to help everyone with cancer access world-class care, everywhere

* Resources for Patients and Families: Supports ASCO’s award winning Cancer.Net (consumer cancer website of over 120 cancer types) as well as patient waiting room materials and survivor/advocate programs

3) Quality and Access to Care

* Ground-Breaking Quality Initiatives that improve the delivery of care, including CancerLinQ, a cutting-edge health information technology platform that will enable doctors to learn from the millions of individual patients living with cancer nationwide

QOPI, and programs of the Institute for Quality that improve the delivery of care

* Access: Efforts to reduce disparities in access to care, ensure a diverse, well-trained workforce, and improve cancer care internationally


Tom Roberts and Jacqueline
Dr. Roberts and Dr. Suen Garcia

At Tom's event I got to meet a couple of the young researchers who have received CCF grants in the amount of $50,000 each. The CCF grant ranks as one of the most prestigious grants in the country, which enables recipients to receive further grants to continue their work. One researcher I met was Jacqueline Suen Garcia, a research doctor at Stanford.

What fascinated me most was understanding Jacqueline's “why.” I wanted to understand what drove her to be a researcher vs. earning much more as a doctor in a private practice or a hospital. Jacqueline said that at the end of the day, her number one desire is to help people live. It's not the money and it's not the recognition, but the ability to help a child diagnosed with leukemia grow up to see the world.

Jacqueline mentioned that she and her fellow research doctors struggle constantly with the decision to pursue their passion vs. making a career decision out of practicality. They have families to support just like many of us. Without private funding, we would lose talented doctors like Jacqueline towards the necessity of making a living. Goodness knows it's not cheap living in the Bay Area. Jacqueline mentioned that the importance of private support cannot be overemphasized.


Although Tom left day-to-day clinical practice, he has never left oncology. I think most of us have wondered at one point or another, which is a more effective path to helping others: making as much money as possible so one has the resources to give the most, or helping people individually one person at a time. I say every method helps. Not all of us can be Bill Gates, but each of us can do our own part to contribute to a cause we believe in.

After several decades of fighting cancer, you might wonder why we haven't eradicated cancer by now. The fact of the matter is that there has been tremendous progress made towards fighting cancer. Back in 1989, there were only two cancer drugs a year coming out. Now there are 12 new cancer drugs a year. Twenty years ago, only one out of every three people diagnosed with cancer would live to 5 years after diagnosis. Today, two out of three people make it to 5 years after diagnosis.

“Throughout history, we’ve seen that scientific discovery doesn’t happen linearly and it doesn’t happen quickly, but that we occasionally find ourselves at tipping points where things really start to happen,” Tom says. “This is one of those tipping points. The ability to harvest rapidly evolving opportunities is dependent on the people you have in place and the resources you have available. You see losers, winners, lost opportunities, and great triumphs. We’re in that moment now with cancer research. If we lose momentum now, we’ve lost a lot.”


Here's a short video clip highlighting two Grantees, who explain how CCF funding launched their careers and enabled them to take their cancer research to the next level. The next generation of researchers are key to conquering cancer.

If you would like to donate to the Conquer Cancer Foundation please visit this link. For the month of September, Raj Mantena, RPh a CCF board member has agreed to donate $2 for every $1 donated to CCF up to a total of $1 million, e.g. a total of $300 will be donated for every $100 contribution. 90% of every dollar donated goes straight to the young investigator's funding.

For those who are looking to minimize their risk of getting diagnosed with cancer, I leave you with three simple tips from Neil Iyengar, one of the CCF grant recipients at the gathering:

1) Don't smoke

2) Eat less processed foods

3) Stay a healthy weight

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Updated for 2019 and beyond.

20 thoughts on “The Conquer Cancer Foundation: Funding The Hopes Of Many”

  1. Pingback: It’s Virtually Impossible To Escape The Allure Of Money | Financial Samurai

  2. Love the great discussion and thanks so much to the Financial Samurai for raising awareness about the importance of supporting promising cancer research. We’re so glad to be part of a robust community dedicated to conquering cancer through prevention, treatment and cure.

  3. debs @ debtdebs

    Lost my Aunt to ovarian cancer which is hard to diagnose. She was already at stage 4 and lived for about a year and a half with chemo treatment. Some cancers are easier to treat than others. They say ovarian is difficult due to late diagnosis which means it has already metastasized to other organs.

  4. So either you or I will get cancer, Mr. Samurai.

    Many of my family members have had cancer. Each year my parents donate to MD Anderson Caner Research in Houston. They were amazing with my dad when he had kidney cancer 10 years ago. My parents seemed to actually enjoy the whole experience (even with the cancer!). My dad’s good now. Just minus one kidney.

    It’s good there are so many people out there willing to help cancer patients -whether it be will research or care after it happens.

    1. Phew! Glad your dad is OK!

      It’s a sobering thought that half of us men will be diagnosed at some point.

      Id like to raise awareness now and focus on prevention. It’s natural to fight for a cause once we experience it. But if we could look at statistics and fight for a cause anyway beforehand, I believe we can all make a difference.

    2. MD Anderson is a great place. If you ever get the chance, try to attend Polo on the Prairie outside of Albany.

      Imagine what a great world it would be if we could cure cancer.

  5. Thank you, Sam, for highlighting this. I work in the translational side of research, which is where it all begins–when someone says, ” I wonder if…..” and starts the very basic research that can eventually go into clinical trials. Funding is so scarce now, and NIH R01 grants are extremely hard to get (the lifeblood of basic science researchers). Any amount people are willing to donate is so helpful!

    1. You bet Robin. We’ve come a long way, but we’ve still got a long way to go.

      I really admire people like you in the world who have amazing purposes with your work. It would be a crying shame to let not enough money get in the way. From what I can tell, there’s plenty of money out there.

  6. While I’m sure there are some forms of cancer that could be reduced by healthier eating habits, there are so many forms of cancer that affect people who are not overweight and who are otherwise healthy. So I agree with Sam and Meghan that supporting research is important and shouldn’t be dismissed.

    1. mysticaltyger

      Yes, I certainly agree with that. Unlike heart disease and diabetes, the majority of incidents of cancer can’t be prevented through healthy living alone (at least that’s what the research says now), but the 1/3 of cases that are preventable is still significant. I guess I just find myself frustrated with the almost complete lack of focus on helping people prevent disease before it occurs. Everyone agrees prevention is a good thing, but no one (especially in the health care complex) seems to be doing much the prevention end of things.

      1. There’s a lot more advertising and campaigns these days compared to several years ago that are focused on encouraging people, families, and kids to exercise, to eat fruits and vegetables, and stay active. But getting people to change is no easy task even if tons more millions are put into get healthy campaigns. People have to be motivated from within to want to change their health habits.

        1. We at the Conquer Cancer Foundation strongly believe in the importance of cancer prevention. We’re proud to be one of very few cancer research organizations that support prevention research, and we’re proud to also support patient and physician resources designed to address known preventable causes of cancer, such as smoking and obesity.

          In fact, just recently through the support of CCF, the American Society of Clinical Oncology released a set of resources for both patients and providers addressing the negative side effects of obesity on cancer risk and cancer-related mortality and the need to maintain a healthy weight and lifestyle. If you’re interested, you can download the resources at

  7. Mysticaltyger

    I’m going to play the role of naysayer here….The thing I hate about health charities is I don’t think they focus enough on the behaviors that lead to the diseases that they’re looking to cure. At least 1/3 of cancer can be completely prevented by healthier diets and not smoking. Other diseases, such as heart disease, & diabetes are even more preventable.

    I just don’t like the focus of most of these health charities…It’s always “more money for more research so we can find a cure”. That’s all good and necessary….but it’s way, way, overdone, and there’s nowhere near enough attention to helping people adopt healthier diets and other lifestyle habits that would prevent these diseases.

    1. I hate to say it, but I have to agree with Mysticaltyger. The amount of fundraising is so large that if a true cure for cancer was found, a rather good sized chunk of the economy would be impacted…any many careers. And if fundraisers were truely sincere, the fundraising costs would be close to zero. Furthermore, I find it appalling how much of my donation dollars (on avg. 10%) goes back into the fundraising marketing machine. Why don’t more not-for-profit leaders donate their time?

      1. I’ve got to get the stats for how much government fundraising goes to health, but it is appallingly low eg less than 1%.

        90% of every dollar donated to CCF goes towards funding the young investigator. That sounds pretty good to me.

  8. Thanks for highlighting this organization. Having 2 family members and a close friend with cancer I’ve found myself frustrated and sad thinking “why haven’t they come up with a cure?” This post is a good reality check of the hurdles and challenges that face scientists and oncologists, especially those who are young in the field.

    That is great news that the volume of new cancer drugs is rising and that there are strong programs like this that support research especially amongst the up and coming generations. Keep up the great work CCF!

    1. Jay @

      I completely agree. There’s a great info graphic going around that shows that a lot of our research money goes to diseases that don’t kill many people! It’s morbid but, quite frankly, ALS is not the largest killer out there. Our money should be applied to where the greatest risk is.


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