Bound For Cures

One year ago this month, the IF team and board were hunkering down for serious conversations about their future. With a new lockdown in place, and the growing understanding of how sprawling this public health crisis could become, they made the difficult decision to cancel their annual Rock & Roll Avalanche gala. But with their signature fundraising event cancelled, the question loomed: how would they be able to reach their ambitious fundraising goals for cancer research?

In this critical moment, they asked our community to help them support the frontline caregivers at UCSD’s cancer centers, through their Help Our Cancer Heroes program, who were continuing to deliver essential treatment services throughout lockdown. And as you always do, you heard and answered the call. As they delivered meals to dedicated healthcare teams taking care of cancer patients, their realization was clear – cancer had not stopped because of Covid-19, and patients needed hope, now more than ever.

The Foundation expanded their grant applications to foundations and trusts. They worked deeply with their event committee to brainstorm new ideas for safely engaging with our community. They communicated in earnest with their donors about their fundraising goals, created matching opportunities, and built new relationships. They deepened their community partnerships and hosted new virtual events, like their special Peloton ride with Padres Pedal the Cause on World Cancer Day. To top off the year and in keeping with their rock and roll vibe, IF hosted Drive In to Drive Out Cancer, a drive-in movie featuring Jack Black in the School of Rock.

This challenging year became an incredible journey of innovation, determination, and an outpouring of support from our community that was unparalleled. In 2020, IF granted out $586,550 to its programming initiatives, specifically: $575,000 towards their research in precision cancer immunotherapy at UC San Diego and the La Jolla Institute for Immunology and $11,550 on meals and PPE, donated to frontline healthcare workers at UCSD Health’s cancer care centers and to St. Paul’s Senior Living Facilities.

All research dollars given this year have been dedicated to a personalized cell therapy trial currently open and enrolling at UCSD Moores Cancer Center, using tumor infiltrating lymphocytes, or TIL therapy. In February 2020, IF received an update that the TIL therapy trial was ready for enrollment and patients were being identified. However, in March 2020, IF received a new update from their research partners, relaying that due to the imminent threat of the coronavirus outbreak enrollment had been suspended. Thankfully, patient screening for this promising new trial was able to resume in the summertime, and with great effort and dedication on the part of the clinical and research staff at UCSD, Patient #1 was successfully treated in December of 2020. Already in 2021, Patient #2 has been enrolled, and the trial is continuing to screen patients for treatment.

In 2021, they are solidifying their community partnerships. They know there is so much more they can do to impact the treatment of cancer together, and they have entered 2021 with the same zeal and determination to change the face of cancer treatment that they have held since their founding in 2015. As an organization, they weathered an incredibly perilous year for non-profits – and raised and donated more than they were able to in the previous year. This achievement was only possible because our community, as always, stepped up to preserve our mission in the face of uncertainty.

Immunotherapy Foundation is genuinely hopeful for the year ahead. In the most challenging year any of us can remember, you have shown us how powerful we can all be when we come together. Together, we are bound for cures!

www.theimmunotherapyfoundation.org