Judith Kaur, MD, was presented with the very first Young Investigator Award (YIA) at the 1984 ASCO Annual Meeting in Toronto in what she felt was a “very prestigious event”—having breakfast with the ASCO president. The purpose of the new YIA program was to provide grant funding to help a young investigator launch a research career in clinical oncology. When the director of her melanoma clinic encouraged her to apply, Dr. Kaur had no idea that she would be the inaugural YIA recipient, or that she would be the first of many impressive YIA winners to come. But this became clear at breakfast that morning. “The emphasis was that this was just the beginning, that there would be lots of other investigators who could be supported,” she recalls. 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.”
30 Years of Grants and Awards
Her feeling was correct: it was just the beginning. What started as one research grant has now become many. 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 who will be recognized at the 2013 ASCO Annual Meeting. 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 oncologists; 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 third generation.
In addition, the Grants and Awards Program has expanded from one single grant to multiple grants and awards that span the continuum of a researcher’s career. In 2012, the Conquer Cancer Foundation 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 researchfrom prevention to treatment to palliative care to outcomes and everything in between.
Growing a Pipeline for the Future
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 99% of the YIA alumni who responded to a recent survey from the Conquer Cancer Foundation indicated that they are still involved in oncology research. The work of current and past recipients is being presenting 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 practice-changing research of the year. These young oncology trainees are staying in research fields, touching the lives of the patients they treat, and making an impact in the constantly-evolving field of oncology.
The Grants and Awards Program and the future of many young researchers would not be possible without support from individuals who believe in the Foundation’s vision to create a world free from the fear of cancer. Join us in our mission to support the next 30 years of cancer research by visiting www.conquercancerfoundation.org/donate. ■
© 2013. American Society of Clinical Oncology. All rights reserved.