Genesis of a fundraiser.
About two years ago, a California couple named Rider and Victoria McDowell were given the grim news that their 15-year-old son’s malignant brain tumor had recurred. Their son, Errol’s, odds for survival were not good, they were told, nor were there any viable options. During Errol’s initial bout with cancer two years previously, the McDowells were cautioned to stay off of the Internet to avoid the “sketchy science and false hopes” it offered up. This time around, Rider, a former investigative journalist, dove into the Internet, researching medulloblastoma, their son’s cancer, and every conceivable therapy to fight it. Through sheer luck and persistence, McDowell learned about a Phase 2 immunotherapy clinical trial at the University of Florida, pioneered in part by Dr. Duane Mitchell. This “Dendritic T Cell” immunotherapy utilized a patient’s own tumor RNA to make a personalized vaccine which, when introduced back into the patient, would seek out and destroy any lingering cancer cells. Rider and Victoria leapt on this, and Errol was admitted into the trial at the University of Florida. It’s been more than 20 months since his trial vaccine and he’s doing beautifully and we are confident of a full cure!
Spurred on by his son Errol, and after having met so many other people – young and old – fighting cancer, Rider decided to learn everything he could about the subject. How many other nascent cancer therapies were out there that needed promotion and funding?
As a former journalist, McDowell continued to delve into the cancer research world, first through magazine and Internet articles and then through in-person meetings with many of the nation’s top cancer researchers, institutions, and scientists. Each inspiring bit of research data spurred him on to learn more and more. An early observation was the sheer potential for cures that existed, but were in a kind of limbo, awaiting funding to initiate clinical trials. McDowell learned that cancer researchers, at even the most prestigious institutions, depend largely on the NIH (National Institute of Health), a government funded agency that funds a mere 6% of all grants requests, due to budget constraints. That meant that 94% of all grant requests were being denied. It also surprised McDowell how many of these brilliant scientists and doctors were not privy to the research and breakthroughs of their colleagues at fellow institutions. While sharing this information with his recovering son, Errol suggested they start their own non-profit organization to fund these specific therapies, one of which had saved his life. Cancer-A-Gogo was born. Cancer-A-Gogo was conceived to ensure that these same scientists could receive immediate funding to pursue their clinical trials and research. It also was started to create a forum to learn from their peers in the immunotherapy and gene therapy cancer research world, by virtue of their inclusion in the transparent Cancer-A-Gogo forum.