All donations to VLCM Foundation go to Huntsman Cancer Institute. In the past, we have opted to let administrators at the institute decide what the money should be spent on. In 2018, we had a new idea.
During 2018, donors at the United Against Cancer golf tournament were given the opportunity to choose which of three fields their donation could fund. Those fields were research into lung cancer, melanoma, and leukemia. All three types of cancer are major special concerns at HCI right now, and extra funding is being dedicated to them.
Lung cancer is among the deadliest in the state of Utah as well as in the United States. It's also one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers on earth. The disease is infamous for appearing to kill quickly, because it's usually not found until late in the course of the disease when it's not very treatable. Only about 17% of people diagnosed with lung cancer will be alive 5 years after they start treatment. It is considered a terminal illness. In America, someone dies from lung cancer every 3.4 minutes.
Utah has the highest rates of melanoma—a kind of skin cancer—in the country, so the disease is of special concern at Huntsman Cancer Institute. Not only is melanoma more common in Utah than elsewhere, but it's also been getting increasingly more common in the state since at least 2002. Of all the skin cancers, melanoma is the most dangerous. Approximately one American dies from melanoma every hour.
Leukemia affects a person's blood and bone marrow. Over the past few years, Huntsman Cancer Institute has been tracking an increase in how often leukemia occurs in the state of Utah and is dedicating special resources to find out why.
2018's golf tournament funded:
- $23,450 to lung cancer research
- $34,750 to melanoma research
- $23,350 to leukemia research
Some might ask what $25,000 can pay for in a world where the research done in many cancer labs costs millions of dollars a year in government funding. That's a fair question! We recently went on a tour of Huntsman Cancer Institute and learned just how much of a different $25,000 can make.
In 2017, a team of researchers developed a theory of a better way to treat pancreatic cancer. The disease is notoriously fatal. Current treatments are not particularly effective and have serious side effects.
The researchers received a small grant of about $25,000 from Huntsman Cancer Foundation to begin testing their idea—a combination of two drugs already on the market—in mice. It seemed to work fantastically. Using the evidence that the $25,000 grant paid for, they applied for and received a federal grant of $1 million. Federal grants are extremely competitive and difficult to win without the kind of evidence paid for by the small grant.
This drug regimen has been given to 7 patients thus far. It has very minor side effects and begins to work within weeks. Patients who have been on the drugs for months see their tumors shrink and their lives extended. The combination was scheduled enter clinical trials in early 2019.
Because we know these types of cancer research still need extra funding and we've seen how useful these amounts of money can be, VLCM Foundation will continue to offer golf tournament donors a choice between funding lung cancer research, leukemia research, and melanoma research in 2019.