F*ck you, cancer (but how?)
April 1, 2013 1:11 PM   Subscribe

If I had gobs of money to throw at a "cure" for cancer, or at least ways to make it suck less for those who have it*, where would the money go farthest? Research for better treatments, research to develop better diagnostic tools, funding for better treatment/diagnostic programs, funding for patient support (like hospice) service, or anything else? Do organizations exist that might be more effective than the American Cancer Society, for example?

*If we wanna get specific about which kinds, let's put pancreatic cancer at the top
posted by estherbester to Health & Fitness (16 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I would donate to the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation. The entire 100 percent of your donation will go directly to research, specifically to support new and innovative research programs that most often have difficulty obtaining funding from the National Institutes of Health or other more established programs. Dollars there could conceivably have a multiplier effect as the research leads to new and more effective diagnostic and treatment options.
posted by grouse at 1:20 PM on April 1, 2013 [6 favorites]

I don't know specifically about cancer research, but I used to work for a prestigious teaching/research medical college. They collected millions for "research." The money went to pay for grossly inflated doctors' salaries. (The medical colleges compete for big name faculty by offering them huge salaries. That way they can attract more students and charge more, because "we have Dr. So and So on our faculty.") Dr. So and So used funds donated for research to pay for limos to pick his wife up at the airport, among other things. As near as I could tell, this was common practice, along with other financial scams.*

I no longer donate to medical research; instead I donate directly to families who need help paying for treatments.

*There's the story about the 1000's of dead research mice that expired mysteriously, fortuitously just days before Tropical Storm Allison flooded the lab, thereby enabling the hospital to get their insurance to pay for all the dead mice. I remember it clearly, yet no news source reported the discrepancy when they suddenly changed their story to "The mice drowned."
posted by MexicanYenta at 1:43 PM on April 1, 2013

If you are specifically concerned about the money going to salaries, it's worth noting that scientists are only eligible to apply for Damon Runyon grants up through the third year of an assistant professorship, so they are unlikely to have inflated salaries. The National Institutes of Health and the American Cancer Society now impose a salary cap of $179,700 and refuse to fund salaries above that level.

If you are concerned about money going to excessive physician compensation, they're much more likely to get it from people paying for treatments. The really big compensation comes from performing as many expensive treatments as possible in the clinic.
posted by grouse at 2:13 PM on April 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

Health insurance reform.
posted by dekathelon at 2:29 PM on April 1, 2013 [8 favorites]

Johns Hopkins has an excellent research group dedicated specifically to pancreatic cancer. PC is especially nasty because it's usually too late to do much by the time it's detected. I would focus my contribution on research and avoid spending money to raise awareness.

You might be most satisfied donating to a local organization so you know that you're supporting people in your community. Hospice workers are doing God's work IMO. You could also consider something like Ronald McDonald House though now we're not talking specifically about cancer.
posted by kat518 at 3:46 PM on April 1, 2013

Breast Cancer Action?
posted by latkes at 3:55 PM on April 1, 2013

Best answer: Btw, Charity Navigator four star charities focused on medical research, specifically cancer: Breast Cancer Research Foundation, Children's Tumor Foundation, CURE Childhood Cancer, aforementioned Damon Runyon, Dana-Farber, Lustgarten Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research, and Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation.
posted by kat518 at 3:58 PM on April 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

I am so sorry that your life is being affected by cancer. I think pancreatic cancer is a very particular circumstance because it is so insidious and so difficult to treat. I personally would feel better throwing money at research and the group at Johns Hopkins, the Damon Runyon and Dana-Farber institutes are all doing cutting edge work that may not get funding elsewhere. It's such important work and in this funding climate, help there may make a huge difference in the not too distant future.

From a practical standpoint, though, services that can support patients and families facing cancer have made a huge impact on the lives of some very important people in my life. One example is the Cancer Support Community (a rebranding of Gilda's Club) that provides therapy, and other services that are crucial to patients and caregivers as they face down cancer. Hospice, as kat518 pointed out, is filled with amazing people who are doing some of the most important work out there often without adequate funding. Those kinds of organizations have a huge impact on the people whose lives they touch.

I guess it comes down to the kind of impact you would like to have, and how soon you want that impact to be felt. I am right there with you saying a bit F*ck you to cancer in all the ways I can, big and small. Thank you. It's important to keep fighting.
posted by goggie at 4:43 PM on April 1, 2013

In case the story above makes you at all concerned about giving to Hopkins, I have some close friends who are research scientists there, and I can assure you, until you are a tenured professor, which takes almost your whole career, the pay is crap. The researchers there are not in it for the money, I guarantee you that.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 5:00 PM on April 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

I don't know if you are talking about just donating a few bucks or doing something larger, but based on what my sister has said, arranging funding for something actually different in the realm of cancer research would be a good place to start.

My sister has been battling cancer on and off for more than a decade. She has complained to me that most cancer studies are some variation on the same thing because it is what they can get funded. I guess it would be a little like trying to dress better by trying on 500 pairs of shoes and when the pants still look hideous and do not fit, try on 200 more pair of shoes. She has expressed disgust and frustration with the whole thing.
posted by Michele in California at 6:23 PM on April 1, 2013

You might have heard about the recent cancer breakthrough (leukemia)? The study was funded by the Alliance for Cancer Gene Therapy, which says that 100% of donations go to research.
posted by triggerfinger at 6:45 PM on April 1, 2013

Most large cities have multiple charities that serve the needs of children with cancer specifically, to help give seriously ill children some experience with a "normal" childhood. Two organizations that I was involved with when I lived in the Midwest were Camp Rainbow and Friends of Kids with Cancer. I'm sure there's an organization or a cancer camp similar to that near where you are.
posted by honeybee413 at 7:08 PM on April 1, 2013

There was an interesting article in Time Magazine recently about Stand Up to Cancer that I suggest you read.
posted by Dansaman at 2:05 AM on April 2, 2013

Nixon declared "war on cancer" decades ago. We've made a fantastic amount of progress in that time, and we still have a great distance to go. I have my doubts about hype-campaigns which seem to squander a lot of time and money on buildups that contine to suck money and attention long after they've hit the point of diminishing returns, and a lot of time and money overcoming the distorted priorities caused by the last big hype-campaign.

Breast cancer continues to command resources in excess of what is reasonable given the excellent progress on outcomes at the expense of other areas of research. Going forward I am pretty confident that diagnostics based on tumor genomes are going to have money dumped into them at a rate that far exceeds what is sensible at this point.

If I had big money to put into f*cking cancer, I'd advocate for strong funding for basic science research across the biology, chemistry and physics. I'd put a lot of money and attention into studying and improving scientific communication, so that people are more apt to share information and collaborate across disciplines. I'd fund programs seeking to advance team-based medicine in cancer treatment and beyond.

The rest, I'd focus on improvements to treatment programs and comfort and support of patients and their families. My father-in-law has been getting treatment at MD Anderson, and the quality of the staff and the thurougness of the care mangement has made things so much easier. They have a dentist on-site to take proactive measures against tooth issues that can come from radiatin treatment of the head and neck, and staff who knew they were coming to Houston every week from another part of TX juggled scheduling when possible to put them on the road half a day earlier -- without being asked.
posted by Good Brain at 4:39 AM on April 2, 2013

Speaking as someone with peripheral knowledge of the research community:

For medium sized gobs of money, I'd put it into patient advocacy and education, to give every patient the fullest ability to control their own treatment. Related, I'd make a better way of cross-referencing clinical trials, so that the most suitable patients get the most suitable treatment, and any airfare etc gets taken care of.

For truly astonishing gobs of money, and assuming that you have no particular research background, I'd hire some smart scientific people from a bunch of backgrounds to go talk to cancer researchers about their wackiest ideas, the ones they don't even know how to achieve. Maybe they write grants, but the point is that the money goes to the riskier creative edges rather than the well-funded middle.

Then I'd build a building with huge computational, lab, and clinical capabilities and put the owners of the wackiest ideas into it together.
posted by tchemgrrl at 12:19 PM on April 2, 2013

Siddhartha Mukherjee's book, "The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer", won the 2011 Pulitzer prize for non-fiction, and it's a fascinating read. If you haven't already, you might want to read it to get a sense for the history of both cancer research and cancer research advocacy (the Jimmy fund, the War on Cancer, the rise of pink ribbons, and so on).

Scientists are at a rather interesting point with cancer research right now, more so than the usual "in twenty years...", but if you want to dive into the advocacy side, I really do recommend a solid background, starting with that book and then maybe diving deeper.

As a plus, it's a *really* good book.
posted by RedOrGreen at 12:20 PM on April 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

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