SALT LAKE CITY — As Lori Kun talks to longtime cancer researchers, there’s a common thought among them: They wish they could go back and start over. It’s not a regret as much as it is a realization — a realization that they would do things differently with the knowledge they have now.
“We know that this is an important time for cancer research,” said Kun, who oversees Qualtrics’ nonprofit cancer-fighting campaign 5 For The Fight. “And so we're here to dedicate some of our resources and find other people to help support it.”
Since beginning in 2016, 5 For The Fight has raised $25 million to help with cancer research by funding research labs and the construction of new care facilities, as well as cancer researchers throughout the world. Now, the campaign will heavily fund new researchers in Utah.
On Tuesday, the campaign launched the 5 For The Fight Fellowship, a new program that will sponsor nine early-career cancer researchers at Huntsman Cancer Institute. It’s a program that’s designed to build a pipeline of researchers to help accelerate cancer research.
The researchers selected for the fellowship will each receive $50,000 annually for three years to support their research, a news release said. An additional $150,000 will be used to help share the results of the research with other leading cancer researchers and institutions. The application process for the nine fellowship positions will open this week.
“Our dream when we started was to eradicate cancer — to be the generation that ends cancer,” Kun said. “And we think that we can do that. We wouldn't do this if we didn't think that we had a shot.”
The fellows' work will be focused on understanding cancer from its beginnings, moving discoveries from lab bench to patient bedside and into the community, and cancer prevention, 5 For the Fight said. The hope is to fund innovative minds to find new ways of attacking the disease.
“I don't think we'll be satisfied until that word eradicate happens,” Kun said. “We're here for the long haul.”
Adding a fellowship program is another sign of growth for the campaign that has received donations from across the world. It’s caught global recognition by both its simple premise — everyone can donate $5 — and after Qualtrics donated the Utah Jazz jersey patch to the cause. The Jazz will continue to wear the 5 For the Fight patch on its jerseys at least through the 2022-23 season.
This won’t be the first time 5 For The Fight has sponsored cancer researchers. The campaign has a team of three people at the Cork Cancer Research Centre in Cork, Ireland.
“We hope that this is just the beginning,” Kun said. “We started with one researcher in Ireland and now there's a team of three there. And then to go out of the gate with nine at the Huntsman Cancer Institute, I think that this is just the beginning. And we hope to find many more cancer researchers in the future.”
CEO of Huntsman Cancer Institute Mary Beckerle said the fellowships will help launch the career of researchers.
“This support will fuel scientific contributions that otherwise might go unfunded and support innovative research that will make a meaningful impact on all of us who are affected by cancer,” she said.