The AACR and Stand Up To Cancer

The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) is proud to be the Scientific Partner of Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C), the highly successful fundraising and cancer research support program of the Entertainment Industry Foundation, a major charity based in Los Angeles. During the 2016 SU2C nationwide fundraising telecast, actor Ken Jeong, MD, (pictured here with Rob Riggle), was one of the hosts, and described the AACR as SU2C's "extraordinary partner." He said, "The AACR works with scientific advisors to make sure funding goes to the right places, the right labs, the right scientists, and that there is rigorous oversight of research progress. Their dedication makes all this happen."

SU2C leverages the resources of the entertainment industry to increase awareness of the urgent need for cancer research and raises funds to support unique research initiatives, with a majority of their programs carried out through a collaborative model involving top scientists at leading institutions. To date, more than $480 million has been pledged to support SU2C.

The scientific program of dream teams, translational teams, innovative research grants, and Phillip A. Sharp Innovation in Collaboration Awards is led by a blue-ribbon Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC) composed of highly accomplished laboratory researchers, physician-scientists, and advocates and chaired by Nobel Laureate Phillip A. Sharp, PhD, institute professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Boston and its David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research. Serving as vice-chairs are Arnold J. Levine, PhD, professor emeritus of systems biology at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, and William G. Nelson, MD, PhD, director of the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore.


Working with the SAC and a specific advisory committee for each project, the AACR manages all phases of the grant cycle from the funding opportunity announcement to the rigorous and competitive review process to identify the best research proposals to recommend for funding. After each grant is launched, AACR manages scientific oversight and research progress review, ensuring that the projects remains on schedule and meet their projected milestones.

  • To date, the AACR has managed the selection and oversight of:

    • 19 dream teams;
    •  Two translational research teams;
    • 36 innovative research grants to individual young investigators; and
    • 14 Sharp awards for "innovation in collaboration" among teams and researchers.

The AACR also works with SU2C on a continuing basis to ensure that its communications with the public are scientifically accurate and up-to-date, on platforms ranging from social media to the multinetwork, multi-outlet telecast that has been held every two years since 2008.

Altogether, SU2C has involved more than 1,200 researchers representing more than 140 leading institutions around the world. SU2C researchers have been involved in more than 160 planned, launched, or completed clinical trials, and more than 9,000 patients have participated in SU2C-related trials. They have published more than 600 scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals reporting on SU2C-associated research.

Unique Funding Process

Stand Up To Cancer and the AACR follow a unique process for creating and funding research projects. We work closely with other organizations and public-spirited companies to assemble the funds needed for major initiatives, and to form Joint Scientific Advisory Committees (JSAC). On behalf of SU2C and the collaborators, the AACR issues to the scientific community a call for ideas in specific areas of cancer research. The strongest proposals are selected as finalists by the JSAC, and presented by the scientists in face-to-face meetings with the JSAC for that specific initiative. The JSAC deliberates and recommends the top-rated proposal for funding.

The AACR oversees administration of the grants and provides expert review of research progress. Regular on-site visits with the teams are conducted by an oversight committee. Progress reports are regularly posted to the SU2C website.

International Reach

Stand Up To Cancer began in the United States and is now international in scope, with active partnerships managed by the AACR in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Canada. The AACR International – Canada is Scientific Partner to Stand Up To Cancer Canada, launched in 2014. Scientists in many other countries are also involved in research funded by the Stand Up To Cancer program.

Collaboration is Key

When the founders of Stand Up To Cancer asked top scientists how the pace of cancer research and development could be improved, the answer they heard was surprisingly simple: collaboration. Make scientists work together, encourage researchers to get out of their silos, break down the barriers to teamwork, and teamwork will produce strong results.

SU2C took this advice wholeheartedly. Working with the AACR, it requires researchers to work together, not just within their home institutions, but across institutional lines. Dream team grants are reserved for multi-institutional teams that show they can work together effectively and synergistically.

Dream teams include researchers from different scientific disciplines as well as different cancer centers and other institutions that are often hundreds or thousands of miles apart. But they focus on the same problem and approach to solving it. The teams benefit from the cross-fertilization of ideas and shared use of data and observations. Researchers attack different parts of the problem and then bring solutions together.

As Dr. Sharp puts it, "The overall purpose is to move effective new therapies out of the lab and into the clinic at a much faster pace. It's the collective wisdom of researchers from many different institutions that's making things move much more rapidly."

Sharing Results

The results of the SU2C program have been gratifying, fully justifying the confidence of the people, organizations, and companies who have donated time and money. Hundreds of scientific papers have been published in major journals documenting the new insights and discoveries of the teams. In addition, the AACR helps SU2C share results with the scientific community through open forums at its flagship Annual Meeting, attended by more than 21,900 scientists in 2017. The AACR and SU2C also organize an annual SU2C Scientific Summit, at which the dream teams report on their progress, present results, and brainstorm opportunities for new innovative collaborations. 

For more on the science of SU2C, visit SU2C Scientific Research Teams, and SU2C Scientists in the News.