Cancer immunotherapy groups would receive a hefty $250 million funding from Napster founder Sean Parker, reports say.
Six cancer institutions, including Stanford and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC), would benefit from Parker's financial infusion, which is considered to be the biggest contribution so far for cancer immunotherapy.
Parker, who co-founded Facebook, shared that he is keen on supporting cancer research because he believes that no cost can surpass the benefits of cancer immune therapy.
Although Parker's contribution to cancer immunotherapy is the largest so far, a few other billionaires also contributed huge amounts to cancer research, as well.
In 2013, Nike co-founder Phil Knight vowed to give $500 million for cancer researchers at Oregon Health & Science University. Shipping magnate Daniel Ludwig's estate donated $540 million to six cancer centers in 2014.
Parker's announcement came months after U.S. President Barack Obama announced that a $1 billion "moonshot" federal cancer research program.
Just last month, Jones Apparel Group founder Sidney Kimmel, former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, and several philanthropists said that they are making a $125 million donation to Johns Hopkins University medical school for use in their cancer immunotherapy research.
Parker is extremely concerned that immunotherapy for cancer patients serves as their last option.
"I want to make it a front-line treatment," Parker said. When this happens, he said that the cost of treatment would be significantly reduced.
Parker hopes that his funding would bring the six institutions to work together instead of competing with one another. The Parker Institute will have more than 300 top researchers and 40 laboratories from the six academic centers to unify their research projects. The six cancer centers include the University of California - Los Angeles, University of California - San Francisco, Stanford, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, University of Pennsylvania, and MD Anderson Cancer Center.
Cancer researcher and oncologist Jedd Wolchok from MSKCC is extremely happy for the funding. Wolchok shared that instead of spending time to look for funding, he and his team can now focus on making progress on their research.
Former University of California - San Francisco immunologist Jeff Bluestone, who would lead the institute, is positive that the collaboration would be a game changer.
"Having lived in a world of individualized, solo research, I can see that the thinking is different," Bluestone said. "It's about how we can all do something bigger and better together."
Immunotherapy is presently thought as one of the most challenging yet exciting areas of cancer research due to the number of patients cured by so-called miracle cells incorporated in experimental drugs.
However, Cleveland oncologist Stan Gerson warned that people should not expect that cancer immunotherapy would be able to treat cancer completely. He explained that some patients who received cancer immune therapy had dramatic responses but pointed out that only about 30 percent to 40 percent patients really benefitted. Gerson even said that some patients experience a cancer relapse in one to three years.
Still, Gerson said that investments are indeed going to help researchers and oncologists like him to answer their questions about cancer immunotherapy.
"Is it a replacement for everything else we're doing?" Gerson asked.
Photo: Paige Powers | Flickr