Gifts from the Stupid Strong Charitable Foundation and the Gastric Cancer Foundation have helped elevate an MD Anderson faculty member’s gastric cancer research to the attention of the Department of Defense (DOD), resulting in a $2.43 million award. A personal connection to gastric cancer drives the mission of these two foundations determined to help patients with the disease as they demonstrate how the impact of philanthropic dollars can be magnified.
Foundations carry on patients’ legacies
Candace Netzer loved to dine with family and friends, often calling a shared delicious meal together “stupid good.” This happy declaration led to the naming of the Stupid Strong Charitable Foundation, which raises and celebrates support for gastric cancer research. Netzer — much-loved mother, wife and friend — passed away from stomach cancer Nov. 28, 2017. Her husband, Jeff Netzer, is co-founder of the foundation.
JP Gallagher, 37, was a busy professional with a third child on the way. Life was joyful and vibrant, making his diagnosis of gastric cancer a shock to him and his growing family. Determined to find a cure and to help encourage other patients, he established the Gastric Cancer Foundation before passing away in 2013. The foundation board and volunteers continue to advocate for patients and support research in his memory.
These foundations have generously supported the research of Jaffer A. Ajani, M.D., professor of Gastrointestinal (GI) Medical Oncology. One major focus of the foundations’ funding has been Ajani’s investigation into gastric cancer that has spread into the peritoneal cavity. His team is profiling peritoneal tumor cells to gain a deep understanding of the underlying biology — work that could potentially lead the way to better treatments for patients.
Seed money leads to larger grant
It can be challenging to obtain federal grant funding for innovative early research. Philanthropy can make the difference. “We cherish seed funding,” Ajani says as he explains how gifts from the Stupid Strong Charitable Foundation and the Gastric Cancer Foundation boosted his research. “Their support enabled us to generate compelling preliminary data and a competitive application for the DOD grant. They also helped us to keep our team integrated and energized. Grant reviewers praised our established group of investigators with their unique expertise to tackle gastric cancer.”
In learning of Ajani’s DOD grant, Jeff Netzer says, “It’s humbling and so very rewarding that our early support helped lead to this sought-after award.”
Ajani and his team will use the prestigious DOD grant to advance their research to the clinic, where it can help patients. This funding also will enable the team to pursue other lifesaving discoveries.
“Patients had few places to go for guidance and support when the Gastric Cancer Foundation was founded,” Gallagher’s wife, Cindy, says. “JP would be so happy that his goal of helping other patients is happening and continuing.”
As would Candace Netzer, whose husband calls her a hero. She wanted to channel the love and support of friends and family into meaningful advances in stomach cancer therapies, Jeff Netzer says.
Netzer’s and Gallagher’s vision and generosity live on — bringing hope and help to thousands of patients who have received a cancer diagnosis.