The Anticancer Fund was created 10 years ago by Belgian entrepreneur Luc Verelst. Moved by his sister’s cancer, and himself being a bioengineer, he wanted to do more about the disease. He got frustrated about the lack of information available, and what was available was often confusing. So, he decided to create an organization.
Today, the Anticancer Fund is a Belgian non-profit organization with an international scope, investing in promising cancer treatments, putting patients’ needs first. The fund’s backbone is a strong belief in science and the power of independent research in responding to unmet patients’ needs. They promote, finance and/or coordinate clinical trials, investigating scientifically promising treatments that have the potential for significant positive impacts but lack a market push for further research. If the effectiveness of a treatment is scientifically proven, the Fund will develop a strategy to bring it to patients as rapidly as possible. They also offer non-judgmental and evidence-based information about cancer treatments to patients who want to make informed decisions. Finally, they engage with stakeholders on both national and European levels to influence decision makers and eliminate barriers to rapid, affordable access to more cancer treatments.
TGE – Could you give us some examples of programs or actions you have recently led or implemented?
Mr. Buyens – So far, we completed 11 clinical trials and are supporting 10 others (open or in follow-up). 4 more trial are in preparation. These trials are conducted in different parts of Europe.
We launched a request for application in 2019, to reduce recurrence rate for cancer patients treated with curative intent and have selected a pan-European EORTC study in retroperitoneal sarcoma (STRASS II-trial) to be funded as of 2020.
Together with Rising Tide Foundation for Clinical Cancer Research, a Swiss-based non-profit organization, we launched a request for application in 2020. The final projects are selected and will soon be announced.
We offer cancer patients a free of charge personalized service called My Cancer Navigator, where we give patients non-judgmental and evidence-based information about their type of cancer and treatment options. The service helps patients all over the world, to navigate through the medical labyrinth of information so that they can better understand the disease and its treatment, allowing each individual to make informed decisions together with their doctor.
We continue to support the ReDo database, a curated listing of non-cancer drugs which have shown some evidence of anticancer activity. The database, freely accessible online, lists each of the drugs and the type of evidence that shows anticancer effects, including test tube (in vitro) studies, animal studies (in vivo) and human data.
We engage with decision-makers of the European Union to ensure that cancer patients will be provided access to the best possible treatments. We joined the European Cancer Organization and we are part of other European organizations as well. If we join each other in the fight against cancer, our voices can be better heard.
In June 2020 we organized a webinar, where we brought eminent EU speakers to point out the importance of repurposing existing drugs to fight cancer.
We also contributed to a book, together with Johan Swinnen, a Professor in Leuven, and Kom op tegen Kanker where we answer 100 questions on cancer. The book (in Dutch) is now available in bookstores. It could be translated in English in the future, but nothing is sure for now.
TGE – You now have an international scope, has it always been like this for your fundraising efforts?
Mr. Buyens – Initially, our fundraising efforts were focus at the local level. When we started, most of the fundraising came from a number of individuals and organizations in Belgium. We worked also on legacies, etc.
Now we also have donors from some countries in Europe and from the United States. But we realize that we have to do more fundraising and reach out to more countries, because we are internationally active, we don’t want to limit ourselves to Belgium. It is the reason why we joined the platform, we think it is a good tool to reach out to European donors. We need a way to get to them, and we have limited resources on our side to go to fundraising because we are mostly a scientific team. We are not a fundraising organization, but we cannot go on without funds obviously so we had to find an efficient way to reach our goal and the platform seems to be it.
TGE – Is cross-border giving an important part of your fundraising strategy? If yes, which countries do you target?
Mr. Buyens – As an internationally active non-profit organization we welcome donations from all countries. Cancer has no boundaries, nor have our activities.
In Belgium, donors can donate directly, and we will take care of the tax certificates.
In the Netherlands, The Anticancer Fund is recognized as an “Algemeen Nut Beogende Instelling (ANBI)”. This way, donations are deductible from taxes, but no tax certificates need to be sent.
U.S.-based donors can support the Anticancer Fund in a tax-efficient way through a contribution to the King Baudouin Foundation United States (KBFUS).
To reach (more) countries in Europe we reached out to the TGE platform.
We were part of the TGE network before joining the platform, but it really became an active part of our strategy this year. It’s new for us, it is exciting. We really hope to reach new donors through the platform.
TGE – Why did you decided to join the TGE Network?
Mr. Buyens – We are a group of scientists with little resources devoted to marketing and fundraising. However, we depend fully on donations and private funding to finance our work. By joining the TGE network we get access to 21 countries for donors, to financially support our work. With little effort from The Anticancer Fund, we can let donors benefit from tax advantages in compliance with the legislation of their country of residence. The administrative burden would have been too much for our organization to handle, so we are glad that this is part of the package of TGE. Above all we wanted our donors to give their donations in a secure and entrusted environment.
TGE – What do you think about the concept of a TGE Online Giving Platform?
Mr. Buyens – The platform is a convenient way to reach donors in different countries and to provide them with the appropriate tax receipt. For Belgium, the partner is the King Baudouin Foundation, a trusted organization, well known to the Anticancer Fund.
TGE – How is your organization dealing with the current pandemic situation? Do you have some specific initiatives happening for the moment?
Mr. Buyens – Although the Anticancer Fund is devoted to oncology, we cannot be blinded by the effect of this pandemic on our society. During the first wave of the pandemic some of our medical doctors did volunteer work to help testing getting started in residential care centers.
We also used our expertise with the ReDo Database to provide an overview of the interventional clinical trials ongoing in COVID-19 early in the pandemic, when this information was not yet easily accessible for everyone.
More specifically for cancer patients we urge them to continue to seek medical help, since COVID-19 is affecting cancer care far more than we thought. There has been a negative impact on diagnoses, some patients were diagnosed with a cancer at a very advanced stage and this would not have happened in a normal situation. We recently wrote a blog and reach out to patients on social media.
The pandemic also affected our daily work. Recruitment in clinical trials is slower, patient have difficulties to travel to participate in trials, charity events are cancelled, and of course our staff had to adjust to a new remote way of working.
TGE – Do you think having an online giving TGE page will help you overcome some of your current challenges?
Mr. Buyens – First of all, we want to reach new donors. This has become even more a priority during this pandemic. Secondly, we want to engage in fundraising without being too much distracted from our core duties: clinical trials, patient information and policy work.
TGE – What are the next steps for the Anticancer Fund? Your projects for the future?
Mr. Buyens – Obviously we want to continue supporting our ongoing projects and keep informing patients. In the near future, we will again launch a request for proposal. Our service My Cancer Navigator will be expanded in order to reach more patients in need.
We are working together with the 2 other important philanthropic cancer organizations (Kom op tegen Kanker and Stichting tegen kanker/Fondation contre le cancer) to bring stakeholders together to reflect on the feasibility of academically developed cell therapy in oncology that can reach patients in time, in a safe and affordable way. This will result in a white paper in 2021 that can be used in the discussion with different decision makers.
We will continue our policy work on the European level and will work together with other organizations to jointly get our messages out.
To contribute to the Anticancer Fund cause
If you want to support the efforts of Mr. Buyens and his colleagues, you can make a donation here.
To contact the Anticancer Fund
Email address: [email protected]
Telephone: +32 (0) 2 268 48 16