Rosenthal, Eric T. - Special Correspondent
Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C) has announced a collaborative effort with the Farrah Fawcett Foundation (FFF) to fund translational cancer research on human papillomavirus (HPV)-related cancers.
The three-year $1 million Translational Research Team Grant is just the latest collaborative funding project that Stand Up has had with like-minded organizations, and provides additional focused spending on innovative cancer research.
Other joint projects include:
- a melanoma dream team with the Melanoma Research Alliance (announced in 2011);
- two separate prostate cancer dream teams (both announced in 2012) with the Prostate Cancer Foundation;
- an international translational cancer research grant with the Dutch Cancer Society (announced in 2012);
- an immunology translational research dream team with the Cancer Research Institute (also announced in 2012); and
- a pediatric cancer dream team with the St. Baldrick's Foundation (announced earlier this year).
These are in addition to the dream teams and innovative young investigator awards funded through SU2C's philanthropic efforts, which are overseen by the nonprofit Entertainment Industry Foundation (EIF).
FFF President Alana Stewart said during a telephone interview that the collaborative project had been conceived over lunch with EIF Board Chair and SU2C Cofounder Sherry Lansing, who had helped Stewart and Fawcett establish the foundation in 2007 when Fawcett was dealing with anal cancer.
The foundation opened its doors in 2009, the year Fawcett died, and was originally dedicated to providing funding for cutting-edge cancer research, supporting prevention and awareness, and helping those dealing with cancer, with a focus on anal and pediatric cancers.
“I had been aware of Stand Up through Sherry, and when the idea of collaborating came up, we broadened the grant to cover all HPV-related cancers,” Stewart said.
She admitted to not having been aware of the extent of HPV-related cancers, which are believed to be responsible for most cervical cancers and many anal, vaginal, vulvar, penile, and oropharyngeal cancers, and that HPV infections are the most common sexually transmitted diseases in the United States.
Stewart, an actress, author, and longtime friend of Fawcett's, worked with the former “Charlie's Angel” star on “Farrah's Story,” which documented Fawcett's struggle with cancer. Filmed and produced by Stewart, it aired on NBC in 2009, the same year Stewart's bestselling book, My Journey with Farrah—A Story of Life, Love and Friendship, was published.
Stewart said that their friendship lasted three decades from the time she and her then-husband Rod Stewart had dinner with Fawcett and her longtime companion Ryan O'Neal. Stewart had also been married to George Hamilton and cohosted a talk show with him in the mid-1990s.
“Farrah thought she would beat her cancer and wanted to encourage others, and she would be thrilled with this collaborative effort with Stand Up, because she really wanted to make a difference,” Stewart said.
Stewart said that Fawcett had left a large portion of her estate to the foundation, which does not receive any funding from pharmaceutical companies involved in HPV vaccines.
SU2C's President and CEO, Sung Poblete, PhD, RN, said during a separate interview that in addition to enhancing scientific research on HPV-related cancers she hoped the grant would help raise public awareness. “And, a multidisciplinary translational team looking at HPV [rather than specific cancer sites] might even lead to thinking out of the box, with perhaps head and neck researchers working with experts in anal cancer,” she said.
Stand Up's scientific partner, the American Association for Cancer Research, issued a call for proposals on September 24, noting that a SU2C-FFF Joint Scientific Advisory Committee will solicit and review research proposals focusing on achieving clinical benefits to patients within a few years. Proposals should include two lead researchers and their teams from within one research institution or with a second collaborating institution. Proposed projects should be multidisciplinary and may focus on:
- promising, new treatment modalities;
- investigation of molecular mechanisms that cause HPV-related cancer to develop and metastasize;
- development of a new generation of targeted treatments; or,
- development of improved or novel methods for diagnosing HPV-related cancers or monitoring the effects of treatment.