In 1983, when the director of her melanoma clinic encouraged Judith S. Kaur, MD, to apply for a new grant called the Young Investigator Award (YIA), she had no idea that she would be the start of something big. The purpose of this new YIA program was to provide grant funding to help a young doctor launch a cancer research career. There was only enough funding for one YIA to be presented in 1984 and Dr. Kaur was selected as the inaugural recipient. But even during the initial award presentation, she realized that “the emphasis was that this was just the beginning, that there would be lots of other investigators who could be supported.”
The feeling was correct – it was just the beginning. In 2013, the Conquer Cancer Foundation of the American Society of Clinical Oncology is celebrating the 30th anniversary of its Grants and Awards Program, and over 200 applications have already been received for the 30th class of Young Investigator Award recipients. What started as one research grant has now become many. Over 700 YIA grants have been awarded since the program’s beginning, and with the 30th anniversary, the Foundation will have distributed over $30 million of research funding through the YIA program alone. The program has trained generations of researchers – more than a quarter of the 2012 YIA recipients had a past YIA recipient as their mentor, and there are some YIA “families” that are already on their 3rd generation. Now, 30 years later, Dr. Kaur reflects, “that’s why it feels so good to me to have been the first one, that it led to so many more young investigators, young researchers, getting a chance to do good research.”
The Grants and Awards Program has also expanded from one single grant program to multiple grants and awards that span the continuum of a researcher’s career. In 2012, we offered 12 different funding opportunities for medical students through full professors, from academic centers and community practices, and from any country throughout the world. The Grants and Awards Program supports all types of translational and clinical cancer research – from prevention to treatment to palliative care to outcomes and everything in between.
Even more importantly, the Young Investigator Award program is working and meeting its goal of supporting young researchers in launching their careers and growing a pipeline of researchers for the future. Nearly 98% of the YIA alumni who responded to a recent survey from the Foundation indicated that they are still involved in cancer research. The work of current and past recipients is being presented at major medical meetings, published in prestigious journals, and featured in publications such as ASCO’s annual Clinical Cancer Advances report, which identifies the most important research of the year that impacts patient care. These young cancer doctors are staying in research fields, touching the lives of the patients they treat, and making an impact in the constantly-evolving field of cancer research.
The Grants and Awards Program and the future of many young researchers would not be possible without the generosity of individuals who believe in our vision to create a world free from the fear of cancer. Make a donation and join us in our mission to support the next 30 years of cancer research.