Stand Up to Cancer's (SU2C) fourth live one-hour commercial-free telecast (Sept. 5, 8-9 pm ET/PT) has been expanded to include four Canadian broadcast networks, which will feature Canada-specific cancer content.
The biannual fundraising special has traditionally aired from Hollywood since the first one in 2008, and in past years many celebrities have been said to be unable to attend because of a conflict with the Toronto International Film Festival, held at the same time.
But talks that began in spring 2013 between the Entertainment Industry Foundation (EIF), the nonprofit philanthropic arm of the film and television industry that sponsors SU2C, and Canadian broadcasters resulted in a collaborative effort to tailor the telecast to include cancer information of interest to a Canadian audience.
Tom Hudson, MD, President and Scientific Director of the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, noted during a telephone interview that cancer has eclipsed heart disease as the leading cause of death in Canada.
And according to the Canadian Cancer Society, this year more than 191,000 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in Canada, and more than 76,000 Canadians will die of the disease. Canadian statistics show that prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among men (24% of cases); breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among women (26%); and lung cancer remains the leading cause of cancer death among both men and women.
At a news conference in Toronto, all of Canada's English language broadcast networks (CBC, City, CTV, and Global) announced what they called an “unprecedented collaboration” to simultaneously air the Stand Up program with ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, and numerous other U.S. cable channels.
Speaking at the event were SU2C Canada celebrity “ambassadors” Dan Aykroyd, Kyle MacLachlan, and Jesse Tyler Ferguson.
The Sept. 5 telecast will originate from Los Angeles with cutaways to a live event in Toronto featuring actors participating in the Toronto film festival, Canadian broadcasters, and representatives from health-related charities, government-funded organizations, and industry. The Canadian version will also include cancer information and statistics specific to Canadian audiences.
The SU2C program will be executive produced by Joel Gallen, President of Tenth Planet Productions, and actress Gwyneth Paltrow, who will plan the show's content in conjunction with the U.S.-based SU2C's in-house production team.
To help enable Canadian participation, EIF Canada was established to conduct charitable programs in Canada addressing health issues, an EIF official explained. As a Canadian registered charity, the entity will permit contributors in Canada to receive tax-deductible receipts.
Donations raised through the Canadian outlets will fund Canadian Dream Teams, multidisciplinary translational cancer research teams, as well as educational and awareness programs that will include collaboration from various major Canadian organizations such as the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation, with funding from the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce; the Canadian Cancer Society; the Cancer Stem Cell Consortium, with funding from Genome Canada and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research; and the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research. Current corporate supporters of SU2C Canada are MasterCard and AstraZeneca Canada.
Hudson said that requests for research proposals would be issued by SU2C Canada following the telecast, and would be reviewed by a SU2C Canada Scientific Advisory Committee co-chaired by Alan Bernstein, OC, PhD, FRSC, President and CEO of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research; and Nobel Laureate Phillip A. Sharp, PhD, Institute Professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who heads the original SU2C's Scientific Advisory Committee.
EIF Canada expects to announce the new Dream Teams sometime during next spring, Hudson said.
He said that although it is premature to determine the areas of research for the Canadian Dream Teams, there is a need for innovative cancer prevention research, as well as work in cancer stem cells, and certain site-specific cancers including breast, pancreatic, and viral cancers. He noted that 33 Canadian cancer researchers are already involved in Dream Teams fielded through the U.S. initiative.
“I first became aware of SU2C at the American Association for Cancer Research's 2010 Annual Meeting when I wanted to hear the session dealing with the Dream Team's efforts, but unfortunately was unable to get into the [totally filled] room,” he said, adding that whatever skepticism he might have had about the initiative was dismissed when he had opportunities to interact with the scientists, including Phillip Sharp; Daniel Von Hoff, MD; and Charles Sawyers, MD.
Pamela Fralick, President and CEO of the Canadian Cancer Society, said that she considers that her organization has “a moral and ethical imperative to use science to treat hard-to-treat cancers and those not being looked at,” and that she hopes prevention research will be a major focus of the Canadian Dream Teams.
Cancers particularly needing more research in Canada, she said, are brain, lung, colorectal, esophageal, pancreatic, and ovarian.
SU2C Senior Vice President for Business Development Tom Chiodo said he has great respect for the level of collaboration he has observed in Canada, noting: “There is no exclusivity when it comes to cancer.”
He said that in the past Canadians had been able to view the Hollywood telecast through some Canadian networks as well as the U.S. networks broadcasting in Canada, but Canadian broadcasters felt there was a need for cancer content more exclusive to their audiences.