Collaborating for Cures: Spotlight on Blood Cancer Research

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Labs are eerily quiet. Clinical trials have been paused. Cancer researchers – particularly those who are early in their careers – are facing unprecedented uncertainty. The global COVID-19 pandemic has not only upended every aspect of cancer care for patients and their families, but also halted critical research around the world. In addition to lab closures, many institutions and organizations have been forced to scale back their investments in research, creating unexpected funding shortages. Without this funding, scientists risk shuttering their projects, which in turn, affects all of the laboratory staff who support them. And early-career researchers, often hit hardest by budgetary cuts, might be left with no option but to depart the field entirely – which would be a devastating loss of talent and ideas.

While these are trying times for us all, there is a bright spot: science is adapting and pressing forward. Here at The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS), we’re doing our part to support the most pioneering cancer research, during this new normal and beyond. Like many nonprofits, LLS is not immune to the damaging impact of COVID-19. Unfortunately, the economic realities of the crisis have caused LLS to reduce some of our research initiatives as well as patient support and education programs. Despite these challenges, we remain the largest nonprofit funder of blood cancer research, and we are committed to doing more for blood cancer patients and their families than any organization in the world.

As part of our efforts, LLS is finding new ways to drive forward lifesaving science. Many of these innovative approaches and funding mechanisms rely on collaboration, which is at the heart of the scientific community. After all, discoveries flow when there is teamwork, knowledge sharing and mentorship. And when you bring together researchers who are incredibly passionate about curing cancer – like every one of our researchers – progress is accelerated.

Here’s how LLS is working tirelessly to support cutting edge blood cancer research right now:

  • Just this week, the National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), announced the opening of emergency funding for current NCI-funded principal investigators whose postdoctoral research fellows have lost support from a nonprofit temporarily due to the pandemic. The emergency funding covers the fellow’s salary for up to six months and preserves continuity in training, which is essential for helping early-career researchers thrive in the field. LLS worked with the NIH to make this happen, and there are about 35 LLS-funded researchers who can benefit immediately from this program. Further, the program is open to all eligible postdoctoral cancer researchers nationwide. LLS sparked these conversations with the NIH, highlighting our shared commitment to retaining promising talent in cancer research. The result? An impactful funding opportunity for early-career researchers who need this support more than ever. Learn more here.
  • Recently, LLS announced the awarding of nine new grants through our Blood Cancer Discoveries Grant Program, in partnership with The Mark Foundation for Cancer Research and The Paul G. Allen Frontiers Group. This collaborative model of co-funding will help ignite the next breakthroughs by bolstering critical basic research and discovery by seasoned investigators. Learn more here.
  • This program builds on our previous collaborations with numerous institutions, non-profit foundations, and major donors to enable more than $70 million worth of research in the past seven years alone.

In addition to these initiatives, LLS continues to fund the most high-impact projects worldwide, including fueling the next generation of immunotherapy; continuing our attack on pediatric cancer; and driving forward more precision medicine for patients in urgent need, to name a few. We also continue to evaluate new opportunities with biotech companies to advance novel therapies through TAP, our venture philanthropy initiative.

Research is a beacon in the fight against cancer, illuminating the path toward better treatments and cures. At a time when we have witnessed incredible new blood cancer therapies – many of which have taken over a decade of laboratory research and clinical trials – we cannot afford for research to go dark or even let the lights dim. Thankfully, with the help of our donors, partners, volunteers, and supporters, as well as foundations, institutions and government agencies, we can keep the spotlight on advancing groundbreaking science.

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