By Emily Williams
Picture it. You write a check for a charity, stick it in the envelope and send it off in the mail, never to be seen again. Do you know how your dollar is being used?
UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center Director Dr. Edward Partridge knows where each dollar of philanthropic funding to his organization is going.
As the center’s Advisory Board prepares for its annual ArtBlink gala, Partridge and the center are preparing a plan for using the funds it generates.
“This is an incredibly important event for us because it raises a lot of money,” Partridge said. “Philanthropic dollars are very important to the cancer center because they are our only flexible dollars.”
Over the past 10 years, Partridge said, funding from the National Cancer Institute has been steady, but inflation whittles away at what can be accomplished with the funds. Luckily, money makes money, and every dollar the center brings in through public donations results in $14 from foundations or other grants.
How? Donated dollars support preliminary research that has to be done before researchers can apply for the big bucks from national foundations and the government.
“When a young investigator gets faculty status, they have gone through the process of finishing their master’s, getting a Ph.D. and completing their post doctoral training before getting a job as an assistant professor,” Partridge said. By this time, the researcher is usually in their mid-30s with a family.
“The only way they can support themselves is through being successful in getting grants and contracts from the federal government or big foundations,” Partridge said. “So, one of the things we do with the philanthropic dollars is we provide pilot funding of $30,000 to $50,000 to a young new investigator who has a great idea to, again, show that the idea has merit.”
By supporting researchers and getting grants, the center is able to fund the research and development of new and exciting cancer treatments.
“We are working on a Vitamin A derivative, that was actually discovered here in our chemistry department, that has great potential as a chemo-preventative agent in breast cancer,” Partridge said.
The treatment is moving through clinical trials as a preventative measure for high-risk patients or breast cancer survivors to reduce the risk of relapsing or developing cancer in the opposite breast.
Partridge said he is also particularly excited about a potential treatment plan for brain cancer patients that utilizes a specialized form of the herpes virus to carry drugs and isotopes into the brain to help fight cancerous cells.
“On the other side of the spectrum, we’ve in the last couple of years created a project where we have recruited and trained lay
navigators – non-social workers and non-nurses – to help Medicare patients with cancer navigate their treatment, survivorship and any end of life issues.”
Every dollar that is donated to the center through ArtBlink and other fundraising efforts stays in Birmingham.
The advisory board’s annual gala will take place Feb. 20 at UAB’s Kirklin Clinic. During the event, 20 artists will create a work of art in 90 minutes while guests bid on the art in a silent auction. Dinner and drinks will be served throughout the evening and the Rock Candy Band will provide music for the dance floor following the auction.
Tickets are $150 and can be purchased at www.uab.edu/artblink.