TUCSON, Ariz. — The pandemic is hitting cancer research hard. Researchers are still working to save lives, but the funding to keep that work going is expected to be cut nearly in half in 2020.
That makes the Making Strides fundraising efforts critically important this year.
The American Cancer Society reports it's been behind almost every major cancer research breakthrough since 1946 and has invested just under $5 billion.
The funding streams through research and training grants. UArizona Assistant Professor Noel Warfel received one in 2016.
"Immediately it allowed me to hire new people and take on grad students who I can train," said Warfel.
His bio-chemistry team is studying low-oxygen in cancer, which is difficult to target with current therapies.
Their goal is to stop metastasis — the spread of aggressive cancer cells to new areas of the body.
Warfel said, "As you may or may not know, the primary tumor is not what kills the cancer patient but it's the spreading of cancer that's ultimately what's lethal. So if we can block with metastatic events then hopefully we would be able to cure people or at least be able to allow them to live a long normal life."
Warfel needs young creative minds to help him reach those breakthroughs because researchers have little time, just a few years, to show their worth.
He explains what could happen if the funding stream dries up. "If they don't have access to funding and their own ideas and their creativity then ultimately they will have to move on to other careers whether it be in pharmaceutical industries or outside of science altogether. And when you lose this influx of talent in the early stages this trickles up throughout."
He said losing funding and talent slows the progress in finding a cure for cancer.
And the pandemic has changed this year's big Making Strides fundraising event. It's now a "Drive" instead of a "Walk'" and it's taking place Sunday morning October 18th.