One of the coolest parts of my role here at the LIVESTRONG Foundation is getting to meet some of folks behind the most exciting developments in the cancer treatment and research space. I recently spoke with David Fuehrer, a two-time cancer survivor and the co-founder of CureLauncher, a truly modern platform that gets people involved in improving access to emerging treatments and medications.
As some involved in the fight against cancer know all too well, one of the most complicated crossroads in the journey is the clinical trials process. In fact, at our recent REV forum, the crowd of patients, advocates, health care professionals, and other industry officials identified clinical trials as the most important area to work towards improving. Many others have called for the reform of the regulatory process, which can be cumbersome, expensive, and time-consuming. As David noted, “Many lifesaving cancer treatments never reach people who need them because researchers can’t obtain the money needed for testing. CureLauncher gives everyone a place to see new cancer treatments in development and connect with the dedicated scientists who are saving lives.”
The newly launched website takes direct action in addressing some of these shortcomings by providing information on emerging treatments, access to the scientists and researchers involved, and actual enrollment to over 500 breast cancer medical research trials. It also gives anyone a direct chance to get involved in funding this research through use of the “crowdfunding” model that has taken the startup world by storm. Finally, it provides people direct access to the researchers themselves. Eventually they hope to work directly with organizations to set up partnerships, raise visibility and streamline the way drugs are selected for development and treatment.
To me, one of the most important aspects of this model is the amount of transparency it introduces to the convoluted (and shady) drug development process. This is not surprising given David’s professional background in product development consulting with major pharmaceutical companies, and his co-founder Steven’s experience as a regulatory consultant with the FDA. But David’s story made it clear to me that his motivation behind this goes much further.
As a natural bodybuilding champion in NY, David was diagnosed at age 25 and then again at 30 with testicular cancer. He commented on the loss of confidence that accompanies those diagnoses, and the importance of restoring that confidence and sense of hope. David made the internal decision to take action in the face of difficulty – twice – and with support from LIVESTRONG and a crackerjack team at his hospital in Michigan, he fought the good fight and won. Twice. Here at the LIVESTRONG Foundation we focus on the people impacted by cancer rather than the disease itself, so the action-oriented approach we embody is right in alignment with CureLauncher’s emphasis on getting people actively involved in a process that has largely been off-limits, in the dark and up to the experts.
As technology opens up pathways and shortcuts in different parts of health care, we are looking forward to seeing more such improvements around drug development. The next big cancer-busting drug could be right beneath our noses and thanks to efforts like David’s, we might find it sooner rather than later.