University of Georgia Cancer Center

Message from the Director

How you can support research, education and hope through the UGA Cancer Center

Chances are that your life has been touched by cancer in some way. The probability that an American woman will develop an invasive cancer in her lifetime is more than 1 in 3 (38%), while the probability for an American man is nearly 1 in 2 (45%). As the population ages and average life spans increase, the need to understand more about this disease grows.

Michael Pierce with picture of father

Michael Pierce with a portrait of his father, who died of cancer in 1982.

The UGA Cancer Center was founded in 2004 to bring the talents of the University’s researchers to the fight against cancer. Our areas of specialty include the discovery of drug targets, diagnostic tests, cancer vaccines and new strategies for cancer prevention and improving patient quality of life. We also train undergraduate and graduate students in our classrooms and labs. By supporting our endowment, you can make breakthrough research possible and support the education of the next generation of cancer researchers.

The decreasing availability of federal research funds from the National Cancer Institute means that researchers need solid preliminary data demonstrating that their idea is feasible before applying for funds. The endowment will allow us to fund a small number of grants for projects that are high risk but also have the potential to advance our knowledge in ways that incremental, conservative research can’t. The ability to place a small grant in the hands of a qualified, motivated researcher with a groundbreaking idea can pay huge dividends.

As the state’s largest and most comprehensive University, another major focus involves training students. We all have undergraduates gaining invaluable hands-on experience as members of our research teams. We also mentor graduate students working on Master’s and Ph.D. degrees. Making a contribution to endow a graduate fellowship helps us attract the best and brightest students and is a wonderful way to connect directly with a young person who will be dedicating her or his studies, and likely scientific career, to breakthrough cancer research.

As I consider the immense challenges of the fight against cancer, I am reminded of a personal struggle 26 years ago, when I sat next to the hospital bed where my father lay dying from a horribly metastatic cancer known as mesothelioma. My father, Ernest Pierce, had received a complete physical in October of 1981 and was given a clean bill of health; he died from cancer four months later. At that time, as a young postdoctoral scientist, I confronted the reality that we were dangerously ignorant of the mechanisms that cause cells to become cancerous and invasive. We were also powerless to diagnose early stages of cancer formation.

Investments in research have helped us learn much since then, but we still have a long way to go. We need to develop blood tests to diagnose early stages of different types of cancer, including the silent killers—pancreatic and ovarian cancer. We need to explore new drug targets to slow the spread of cancer or stop it in its tracks. We need to develop innovative types of chemotherapy that minimize side effects of treatment. We need to understand the quality of life issues facing elderly cancer patients and develop better ways of helping them manage their treatment and care. We are doing all of these things at the UGA Cancer Center, but we need your help. Please consider making a financial contribution to the UGA Cancer Center to help support the hope that we are all fighting for. Every dollar that you contribute will be spent for research and education in Georgia, as part of the University of Georgia’s fight against cancer.

Sincerely,
Michael Pierce, Ph.D.
Mudter Professor in Cancer Research