Immunotherapy Foundation
More than just funding cancer research

Doug Ava and Fernanda

Did you know that human papillomavirus (HPV)-associated cancer is on the rise? The virus caused more than 34,000 cancers in the US in 2019 and 690,000 globally in 2018. This very common virus is transmitted through intimate contact – so common that 80% of sexually active adults will have the infection at some point in their lifetime. Still, we have hope, as 92% of cancer-causing HPV infections can be prevented by vaccines – that’s where San Diego’s Immunotherapy Foundation (IF) steps in.

IF is a 501(c)3 non-profit established in 2015 by Ralph and Fernanda Whitworth to fast track cancer cures and ensure prevention of HPV-driven cancers. To support this mission, IF funds precision cancer immunotherapy research and cancer prevention programs.

To mark the importance of HPV Awareness Day on March 4, 2020, IF will be kicking off a 2020 HPV education campaign. The campaign will share information about HPV, cancer, and the cancer-preventing HPV vaccine at local San Diego clinics. These efforts build from IF’s partnered work with global non-profit, Project Concern International (PCI). This collaborative work initiated a community-based HPV education pilot program where community health workers and educators worked to reach vulnerable populations with cancer prevention information. Recently, IF’s Program Manager, Margaux Stack-Babich, was invited to share IF’s educational pilot at the American Public Health Association Annual Meeting and the Biden Cancer Initiative HPV Task Force Meeting. Today, Margaux is continuing this work and meeting with community clinics across San Diego.

“It is an honor to grow IF’s programming and ensure future generations will be free of HPV-related cancers,” Ms. Stack-Babich shared with GB Magazine. “I am working with medical directors and administrators to uncover avenues for enhanced education campaigns, and already we are outlining measurable outcomes for increased awareness and vaccine rates.” IF will partner to conduct community activities throughout spring and summer 2020, promoting vaccinations during August’s National Immunization Awareness Month.

IF passionately takes on this work so children like Doug, do not have to live in a world where we lose loved ones to a preventable cancer.

Doug is 12 years old. He loves sports and being outdoors with his family. He is your typical preteen with big dreams and a curiosity for life. What is different about Doug is he no longer has his dad by his side to guide him through the many milestones he will cross in the coming years.

Doug is brave though, and he is inspired by his mother’s tenacity and grace to not only support him and his sister, but to change the world.

Doug’s dad was Ralph Whitworth, co-founder of IF, who passed away in 2016 from HPV-related head and neck cancer. When Ralph and his wife, Fernanda, established IF, they did so with a mission to fund groundbreaking cancer immunotherapy research and programs for cancer prevention. Today, under Fernanda’s leadership, IF’s funding is bringing scientists to the brink of life-saving cancer cures, and their programming is carrying cancer prevention messages across San Diego and beyond.

For more information on ways you can support Immunotherapy Foundation, please visit or call (858) 704-3330.


author avatar
Esteban Villanueva