Legacy of Hope: A Truly Collaborative Approach to Cancer Research
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Legacy of Hope: A Truly Collaborative Approach to Cancer Research

Philadelphia may soon be the place where a cure for cancer emerges as nonprofit organization Legacy of Hope gets the community involved in providing funding to young researchers.

As a medical oncologist for over 25 years now, Dr. Wm. Kevin Kelly began his career training at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York. He did some additional training at Yale University before arriving at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital eight years ago to establish the Division of Solid Tumor Oncology. Adding to an already busy schedule, Kelly also operates as the Associate Director of Clinical Research at Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center, overseeing all clinical research. Kelly’s influence within Thomas Jefferson University Hospital is distinct, far-reaching and easily acknowledged by essentially anyone you ask.

“You work at Jefferson, you know of Dr. Kelly and you know of his work,” says Michael Rowe, founder, and president of Legacy of Hope.

Now, Kelly and Rowe have teamed up to establish Legacy of Hope, dedicated to funding new, cutting-edge cancer research. According to Rowe, it was Kelly who approached “high profile” researchers and administrators at every cancer center and hospital in Philadelphia to create a scientific review committee responsible for selecting those whose research will be funded.

This is an action essentially unheard of within the clinical research community. The majority of universities have historically enforced a solitary approach to these projects, which has largely prevented researchers from communicating and sharing their knowledge amongst each other. However, Legacy of Hope’s truly collaborative approach to research will gather people from varied backgrounds and allow for greater opportunities to introduce out of the box ideas.

Increasing interactions among the four NCI-designated cancer centers within Philadelphia is one of the primary goals of Legacy of Hope. Combining the “best and brightest” of each of these organizations will pave the way for more advanced ideas to come forward and “change the future of tomorrow.”

Starting in March, this scientific review board will identify three to four individuals, or teams, to provide funding. Committee representatives will provide their own recommendations, in addition to a one to two page summary of the research these parties are conducting. Applications will also be accepted online.

Ideally, candidates will be “young investigators” with an interest in promoting team science. These individuals usually need help pulling themselves out of what Kelly refers to as “the desert region.” That is the time during which these researchers have wrapped up their fellowships and are trying to establish their careers, but are having difficulty securing funding.

I’ve always been about, you know, how we can develop the next generation of investigators,” says Kelly. “Whether it is in the hospital, or in the laboratory, there is a huge financial burden on these individuals. And if we can actually give them protected time where they can think and be productive, then they’ll be successful.”

The scientific review board is searching for three qualities in its candidates: A unique idea, lots of passion and Philadelphia-based. Since Legacy of Hope is Philadelphia funded, and the committee representatives themselves derive from every cancer center and hospital in Philadelphia, the effort to expand the reaches of cancer research truly spans across the entirety of the city itself. In doing so, Legacy of Hope strives to develop an environment in which the brightest researchers can stay, grow and enrich the overall academic mission of Philadelphia.

Through his previous nonprofit work as founder of 11th Hour Racing, as well as his career as an ER Trauma Technician at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Rowe has provided generous assistance to families within the cancer center in immediate need of financial aid. Legacy of Hope will strive to continue offering its support when circumstances such as these arise, although funding will primarily go towards the selected cancer research projects.

While the committee representatives have come together and been meeting, Legacy of Hope currently stands in the raising funds stage of operations. As Legacy of Hope’s official race, the Love Run Philadelphia Half Marathon is the organization’s next major fundraising event.  Athletes participating as representatives for Legacy of Hope are asked to raise a minimum of $250, which will contribute to the committee’s next fundraising goal of $50,000. If you’re already registered or are thinking about running Love Run, consider going all in for a great cause by registering under Legacy of Hope!

Because the public will be the primary source of donations, Legacy of Hope will maintain open communication by eliminating what Rowe refers to as the “donor to mission cap.” Those who offer contributions will know exactly what their money is buying. Donors can look forward to interviews with the young investigators chosen by the committee representatives, information on their progress and updates on their research.

Local businesses will also have a significant role to play in fundraising. Getting involved presents a huge opportunity for businesses interested in receiving incredible exposure while simultaneously making worthwhile contributions to oncology research. Within the next month or so, one Philadelphia institution (which remains unnamed as these plans are still being discussed) will donate a percentage of their sales every month to Legacy of Hope!

Also coming soon is a Legacy of Hope Visa Card, a long-term fundraising goal of the organization. This “affiliate card” will be directly linked to users’ checking accounts and a small amount of funds will be donated directly to both cancer research and local cancer patients each month. Rowe has been in communication with numerous businesses willing to offer discounts to Legacy of Hope Visa Card holders.

The scientific review board looks forward to the opportunity to provide larger sums and offer this award annually to their candidates’ projects as funding increases. Legacy of Hope aims to “redefine” the way research, even beyond cancer, is funded and pave the way for the next generation of researchers to begin to work together and find cures to improve the outcomes of patients with cancer.

Get involved and make your donations now! Or, if you’re interested in even more ways to show support, set up your own fundraising page for Legacy of Hope and it will be promoted on the organization’s official website!

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March 31, 2019

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