2018 Annual Report

Investing in the Future of Cancer Research

Chandra Ramanathan, PhD, (far left), Vice President and Head of the East Coast Innovation Center at Bayer, joins AACR President (2017-2018) Michael A. Caligiuri, MD, FAACR, (far right), in presenting the AACR-Bayer Innovation and Discovery Grants to the 2017 recipients. Since 2015, Bayer has provided $1,387,145 in funding to the AACR to support cancer research.
The AACR Grants Program advances the frontiers of cancer science for the benefit of cancer patients by investing in promising basic, translational, and clinical researchers at all career levels. Over the last 20 years, the program has distributed more than $86 million in vital support through the work of the AACR Foundation. New and ongoing partnerships with nonprofit organizations, foundations, and pharmaceutical companies fueled a dramatic expansion of the grants program in 2018, enabling the AACR to foster cancer science and develop the next generation of leaders in the United States and around the world.

Since the AACR Grants Program launched in 1993, AACR grantees have earned more than $70 million in additional funding. In addition, they have published more than 700 original research articles on innovative cancer science and technologies, including the identification of novel cancer targets and pathways as well as potential therapeutics. These articles have been cited more than 58,000 times, exemplifying the impact that AACR grantees have on the field.

In 2018, the AACR partnered with AstraZeneca and Bayer to offer a unique funding model designed to foster collaboration between academic research centers and the pharmaceutical industry. The Stimulating Therapeutic Advancements through Research Training (START) grants are among the first of their kind in non-profit grantmaking, offering postdoctoral and/or clinical research fellows the opportunity to spend one year of their training conducting research onsite at a pharmaceutical company.

In addition, through the support of the Johnson & Johnson Lung Cancer Initiative, AACR offered three new Team Science grants focused on lung cancer interception and prevention. The AACR-Johnson & Johnson Lung Cancer Innovation Science Grants are expected to drive innovation by supporting collaborative team science focused on identifying novel approaches to the prevention, interception, and cure of lung cancer.


Scientists from 41 institutions were funded by AACR grants in 2018; these investigators received more than $10 million in support of research across the spectrum of cancer science.


Applications for AACR grants were evaluated in 2018.


Expert scientists served on 17 scientific review committees to select the 2018 grant recipients. The AACR is a trusted administrator of research support, providing scientific oversight and expert peer review that is fast, flexible, rigorous, and transparent.

Birgit Knoechel, MD, PhD
AACR Grantee

$3.3 million

Amount awarded to postdoctoral and clinical fellows in 2018, providing critical resources to spark the career development of the next generation of cancer scientists. The 2018 awards included the Debbie’s Dream Foundation-AACR Gastric Cancer Research Fellowships, which provided $50,000 each to support four fellows working on mentored gastric cancer research.

$1.9 million

Amount awarded to eight junior faculty in 2018 to support the launch of their independent research careers.

$7.5 million

Amount awarded through partnerships with the pharmaceutical industry, including new partnerships with Johnson & Johnson and Loxo Oncology and expanded partnerships with AstraZeneca and Bayer.

The AACR and Stand Up To Cancer: Partners in Progress

During the Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C) nationwide fundraising telecast in September 2018, actor Ken Jeong, MD, and actress, journalist, and brain cancer survivor Maria Menounos discuss the AACR's vital role as Scientific Partner of SU2C.
In 2018, Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C) marked its tenth year of accelerating the delivery of new therapies to cancer patients by supporting collaboration and innovation in translational cancer research. The AACR has proudly served as SU2C’s Scientific Partner throughout those ten years, providing expert peer review, scientific oversight, policy guidance, communications, and grants administration to ensure that SU2C’s groundbreaking funding models deliver outstanding results.

SU2C Summits: Reviewing Progress, Charting Future Directions

Collaboration and accountability are critical elements of the SU2C funding model. By bringing together grantees on a regular basis, SU2C and the AACR monitor the progress of funded research projects and encourage project leaders to explore new opportunities to work together.

  • Annual Scientific Summit. In January, AACR staff worked with the SU2C Scientific Advisory Committee to host the largest Scientific Summit in SU2C’s ten-year history. Dream Team leaders and individual grant recipients reported on the status of their research programs. Guest speakers at the summit included Norman E. Sharpless, MD, FAACR, director of the National Cancer Institute, and Martha Donoghue, MD, clinical lead on the FDA’s Gastrointestinal Cancers Team.
  • Pancreatic Cancer Mini-Summit. Because of its devastating effects on cancer patients and the limited treatment options available, pancreatic cancer has always been a major focus of SU2C. At the AACR Annual Meeting in April, SU2C joined with the Lustgarten Foundation to announce the launch of the Pancreatic Cancer Collective, a formal strategic partnership to accelerate research to improve outcomes for pancreatic cancer patients. In August, the AACR organized a summit focused exclusively on pancreatic cancer. Supported by the Lustgarten Foundation and Cancer Research UK, the summit gathered about 100 leaders in the field—including AACR President Elizabeth M. Jaffee, MD, FAACR (right)—to review progress and explore new collaborations.


The primary element of the SU2C funding model is the Dream Team, a scientific task force focused on a specific cancer problem that incentivizes collaboration among leading researchers from different institutions. At the AACR Annual Meeting in April, SU2C announced the launch of a new $10 million Dream Team to address the challenge of multiple myeloma.

A cancer afflicting the plasma cells of the blood, multiple myeloma is often not diagnosed until its later stages, and patients do not receive treatment until their disease has progressed and they have overt end-organ damage. Led by Irene Ghobrial, MD, and Ivan M. Borrello, MD, this new Dream Team seeks to change the disease treatment paradigm by characterizing the genomic, epigenomic, microenvironmental, and immune regulators of progression, and developing effective strategies to intercept disease progression.

Phillip A. Sharp Innovation in Collaboration Awards

Through its focus on team science and its emphasis on interaction at annual Scientific Summits, SU2C has fostered a community of leading researchers addressing the most difficult challenges in cancer research. The Phillip A. Sharp Innovation in Collaboration Awards encourage members of that community to identify new research questions and form new teams to answer them. Named for Phillip A. Sharp, PhD, FAACR, chair of the SU2C Scientific Advisory Committee, the awards provide these new teams with support to accelerate progress for the benefit of cancer patients. The 2018 Sharp Awards provided $250,000 grants to each of the following five teams:

  • Defining Effective T-Cell Response in Viral and Nonviral Gynecologic Cancers
    Leaders: Claire F. Friedman, MD, and Marta Łuksza, PhD
  • Cupid-Seq—High Throughput Transcriptomic Spatial Mapping of Immune-Tumor Interactions in the Microenvironment
    Leaders: Raul Rabadan, PhD, and Dan A. Landau, MD, PhD
  • Interrogating Impact of Epigenetic Modifiers on Durable Reprogramming of Exhausted CD8 T Cells in Patients with NSCLC Treated with PD-1 Blockade
    Leaders: E. John Wherry, PhD, and Matthew D. Hellmann, MD
  • Characterizing Immuno-variability in Children following Standard of Care Treatment to Enable Precision Assignment to Immunotherapy Trials
    Leaders: Trevor J. Pugh, PhD, and David M. Barrett, MD, PhD
    Support for this award includes $125,000 from the Emily Whitehead Foundation.
  • Studies of Colorectal Cancer Patient-Derived Organoids to Validate Candidate Biomarkers of Resistance to Natural Killer Cells
    Leaders: Michal Sheffer, PhD, and Hugo J. G. Snippert, PhD
    Funding for this grant was provided by the C4C Fund.

Sixth SU2C Telecast: Raising Awareness and Funds for Cancer Research

On September 7, with the support of the AACR, SU2C produced its sixth biennial telecast. The broadcast raised more than $123.6 million in pledges collectively in the United States and Canada to support SU2C’s innovative collaborative research programs. During the broadcast, actor Ken Jeong, MD, described the role of the AACR:

This great organization brings the scientists together and makes sure the funding goes to the best research that will save lives now. With dedication and brilliance, the American Association for Cancer Research makes it all work.