The Importance of Philanthropy in Our Fight Against Cancer

Progress in the war against cancer involves so many dimensions – the ingenuity and dedication of physicians and oncologists, new and improved technologies for battling the disease, and proper funding to accelerate our research and make for more functional laboratories.

Fortunately, we have no shortage of brilliant minds intent on uncovering pain-free treatments and unlocking the key to remission. There is, however, a dearth of funds. While cell and gene therapy has established itself as a beacon of hope for those affected by cancer, public funding remains low. With sequesters and slashed budgets, the support that cell and gene therapies for cancer so sorely needs, often received through National Institutes of Health (NIH) grants, is at an all-time low.

Still, top scientists and researchers are able to uncover breakthrough discoveries and create life-saving clinical trials through the power of philanthropy. Private individuals and foundations have stepped in to fill public funding gaps and finance unprecedented medical developments on a regular basis. Large gifts to cancer institutions and research centers are becoming more frequent, and more and more supporters are rallying to conquer cancer through personal donations.

Late last year at an Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy (ACGT) event at the Harvard Club in New York City, Dr. Laurence Cooper – M.D. and Ph.D. at The MD Anderson Cancer Center and a recipient of ACGT’s 2003 Young Investigator Award – put it eloquently: “There’s never been a better time to be an oncologist,” he said. “Philanthropy has truly stepped in and recognized the power of cell and gene therapy.”

Dr. Cooper was speaking directly to individuals who had made a difference: donors and board members at our foundation. Dr. Cooper was joined by Doctors Carl June of the University of Pennsylvania, Michel Sadelain of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, and Savio Woo of The Mount Sinai School of Medicine, who all spoke about the power and potential of cell and gene therapies for cancer. In 2012, a trial at the University of Pennsylvania by Dr. June saved the life of Emma Whitehead, an eight-year-old who was battling leukemia. Now in remission, Emma is sharing her journey online. In addition to Emma, Dr. June has placed dozens of other patients in remission.

Cell and gene therapies have the potential to combat a variety of cancers – your support, and our scientists’ research, can allow physicians to successfully treat blood cancers, brain cancers, and pediatric cancers. Indeed, it already has.

Today, philanthropy is going to extraordinary lengths in the fight against cancer. Our donors are funding scientists and doctors like Carl June, Michel Sadelain, Laurence Cooper and Savio Woo, who are fast becoming household names in the realm of oncology – and, most important of all, saving lives and providing hope. This is a new and inspiring age in cancer treatment, and donors are making it possible.

I’m continually amazed at the generosity and foresight of our supporters. Last month, ACGT was the beneficiary of a gift from sixth-grade students at Greenwich’s Stanwich School. Those five young women, who raised funds through a bake sale and donated all proceeds to Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy, are contributing to something great: a future of pain-free cancer treatment and remission.

This summer, donors from around Connecticut and beyond will gather for the annual Greenwich-Stamford Swim Across America event. Held Saturday, June 21 at Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy’s headquarters in Stamford, families and friends affected by cancer will play a personal role in uncovering a treatment method that eschews the suffering associated with radiation and chemotherapy.

In the non-profit world, the generosity of many individuals makes the difference.  In advancing cell and gene therapies for cancer, this is certainly the case.


—Barbara Netter, President and Co-Founder of Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy (ACGT)

Fun Fundraising

In a recent article in the New York Times, Arthur Brooks discusses why giving back can lead to happiness and the power that comes from “investing one’s own time, talent and treasure.”

bakesale2014ACGT has been the recipient of many of these acts of giving and we are so grateful to all of our donors including our recent young philanthropists. Just last week we received all of the proceeds from two bake sales held by five sixth grade students. The girls had learned about ACGT from a newspaper article and we are so honored they chose us as recipients. The girls had done all of the work themselves, including finding a site for the bake sale, crafting signs, promoting the sale and of course baking the treats. This is what giving is all about.

ACGT has been and continues to be the beneficiary of another wonderful group of volunteers, the group of local swimmers from Swim Across America Greenwich-Stamford Event. For the 8th consecutive year,  hundreds of swimmers, Olympians, cancer survivors, families, volunteers, boaters, kayakers will gather at the edge of Long Island Sound to raise money for a better way to treat cancer. All net proceeds fund the most promising research. Join us on June 21, 2014 for what is an inspiring morning.

Thank you also to all of those who have and continue to donate by celebrating life events with donations to ACGT. We have received donations in honor of a 90th Birthday, a wedding, a 60th birthday, from those who have played at  golf outings, run a half-marathon, run a lemonade stand, all knowing that 100% of what they give goes directly to funding research.  We are honored that they share their commitment and passions with us.

And of course for those of you whose passion is shopping, we participate with both AmazonSmile and Goodshop.  It is so easy to do – just shop at for your usual Amazon items and Amazon will donate a portion of many of the purchases to ACGT.  Please let your family, friends and business colleagues know and have fun fundraising.

Cutting Edge Web Site for Cutting Edge Research

tcells_largeAs you may have noticed, ACGT has revamped its web site!

In this ever-changing technical landscape, we want to be sure we can deliver you breakthroughs in the cancer field, progress of ACGT researchers, updates on clinical trials, creative ways to fundraise for ACGT, details about our funding partners, why you should donate to ACGT, and get information to you as quickly as possible. Please take some time and look at our Progress & Impact page, where the facts and figures still tell us that every minute of every day two people discover they have cancer, that 1 of 4 Americans will develop cancer at some point in time, that current treatments for cancer have hardly changed in the last fifty years and that the choices — chemotherapy, radiation and surgery — can be nearly as debilitating as the disease.

ACGT is the only public charity in the nation dedicated exclusively to the study of cell and gene therapies for cancer. ACGT supports research into treatments that directly attack the cancer, and only the cancer.  To date, we have funded 44 grants at 31 institutions in the US and Canada for both discovery and clinical translation.  ACGT researchers are triggering the immune system to detect and destroy cancers, researchers are strangulating the blood supply to kill cancer cells, or injecting reengineered genes from the patient to repair damaged or defective genes.

Gene therapies are also used in conjunction with chemotherapy to improve response rates. Rapid progress in technology and molecular medicine are paving the way to the greatest advance in cancer treatment in fifty years. As ACGT Scientific Advisory Council Michel Sadelain remarked at an ACGT event in October 2013, “we are on the cusp of a golden age of cancer prevention and treatment, thanks to the promise of recent discoveries.”

Margaret C. Cianci, Executive Director, ACGT
Ms. Cianci invites your comments and opinions.
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