When cancer took the life of my husband, Jay, and then my sister, Emily, it was as if the universe had imploded. In addition to the almost unbearable sorrow and loss, I felt powerless against this devastating disease.
Multiply that individual impact by the millions whose lives are altered or destroyed by cancer every year — one out of every two men and one out of every three women will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetimes — and the web of sorrow, loss, and powerlessness expands almost infinitely.
But that changed in 2008, when a group of fiercely determined women decided to take to heart my favorite quote from Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
When the nine of us started Stand Up To Cancer, our goal was to align the stars of cutting-edge cancer research with the stars of stage and screen to raise money and awareness for cancer research, and most of all hope for the millions of people around the world who think about cancer every night before they fall asleep and every morning when they wake up.
On Friday, September 9, these two galaxies collide in our fifth telecast, bringing together Hollywood’s brightest stars and the leading lights in cancer research.
At 8 PM Eastern and Pacific, 7 PM Central, on over 55 networks in the US and Canada and live-streamed worldwide across major online platforms, Stand Up To Cancer will once again spread its message of progress and hope. Where else can you see the superstars of molecular biology, immunotherapeutics, precision medicine, translational research, and clinical trials along with the biggest names in Hollywood?
You may not yet know the names of the doctors and scientists who are leading this fight, but I bet you’ll recognize these names: Ben Affleck, Dierks Bentley, Bradley Cooper, Marcia Cross, Viola Davis, Celine Dion, Josh Gad, Zach Galifianakis, Jon Hamm, Ed Helms, Ken Jeong, Anna Kendrick, Matthew McConaughey, Niecy Nash, Emma Stone, Eric Stonestreet, Keith Urban, and Kristen Wiig. All of them, and many others, are scheduled to appear on the September 9 fundraising special.
Add to that the scientific brain trust we’ve assembled — Dream Teams of researchers collaborating in unprecedented ways to score new breakthroughs against cancer — and you’ve got the biggest collection of star power since the Milky Way.
I can’t tell you how good it feels to replace that feeling of powerlessness with unbridled excitement about progress we are making against this disease. When we started Stand Up To Cancer, we knew we had to increase awareness, but we also had to approach cancer differently. The Entertainment Industry Foundation, the charitable arm of the entertainment industry, is our home base and has provided resources and access to star power. Then we turned to the American Association for Cancer Research and a blue-ribbon, Nobel laureate-led scientific advisory committee to handpick the scientists and mandate that they work together.
Today, we are seeing the light at the end of a very dark tunnel. Treatments for breast cancer, pancreatic cancer and melanoma developed with SU2C support are in use today. Therapies for lung cancer and prostate cancer are showing promise. A totally new approach to leukemia is saving children’s lives. And our focus on immunotherapy — utilizing the body’s immune system to fight cancer — is giving scientists and patients alike new reason to be optimistic.
I believe with all my heart that we are reaching a tipping point, fueled by the Dream Team grants and funding Stand Up To Cancer provides to young scientists. We couldn’t do this without our generous corporate and organizational donors and individuals who give whatever they can. Whether that’s five or fifty dollars or another amount, every contribution helps.
When I think about my part in this fight against cancer, there’s nothing in the world — with the possible exception of my two beautiful daughters — that fills me with so much pride, and nothing I’ve accomplished in my career, that means more to me than this. Which is why I’m so excited about the SU2C telecast. That is the time when we get to share with you all of the breakthrough initiatives we’re supporting, all of the progress we’ve made so far, and some of the brilliant scientists who are coming together to achieve our ambitious goals.
The special will also introduce viewers to patients whose lives have been dramatically improved by the work SU2C supports — real cancer survivors who have benefited from the new treatments developed by our Dream Teams. After all, they are the people we are doing this for.
I am often approached by people who ask me what they can do to help. For starters, there’s something everyone can do, and that is to support our scientists and spread the word about our uniquely inclusive approach to cancer research.
So please join me on Friday, September 9, and stand with me and many others against cancer. I promise you a lot of laughs, undoubtedly a few tears, and definitely some amazing music. But most of all, you’ll get a healthy dose of hope that our struggle will succeed — that by standing together, we can give cancer patients a future as cancer survivors.