How It Began

Mary Beth Gadus
Mary Beth Gadus

Adversity can often be the very thing that causes a great idea to be born. In 1993, Mary Beth Gadus, in the midst of her own fight with metastatic breast cancer, was listening to a lecture by a pioneering breast cancer researcher, Dr. Judah Folkman, who was describing his frustration with the continued rejection of his theory of angiogenesis — killing a tumor by cutting off its blood supply — and how that rejection deprived him of grant funding to further his research. After 21 rejections, he finally got his grant and his work transformed the treatment of cancer. His dogged persistence prevailed, but he wondered how many lives could have been extended had he received his research funding sooner and how many other scientists with viable “hunches” would never be able to test those hunches for lack of funding.

Years later, Mary Beth learned that her own doctor at the Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center also had hunch: even in the absence of detectable tumors in people who’ve had breast cancer, blood-born strands of micro-RNA known to be associated with tumor production could still be present.  If the hunch proved to be correct and the micro-RNA was, indeed, a reliable indicator of recurrence, preventive treatment could begin in advance of further tumor development.  Mary Beth had an “aha!” moment.

If such viable hunches were not being pursued for lack of funding, why not organize 100 people willing to contribute $1,000 each and designate that $100,000 to the research of that hunch?  Guess what? She did exactly that. The money was raised and the micro-RNA connection is now being fully explored in the laboratory. 

Since its inception in 2008, 100 Voices of Hope has raised more than $600,000 and has served as an innovative and unique charitable opportunity that provides funding for projects that would never be researched in a lab. It is innovative in that donor contributions go toward emerging research ideas at the IU Simon Cancer Center — ideas that could lead to larger research grants, as is the case with the micro-RNA hunch. It is unique in that donors have a “voice” and can influence the funding of hunches vetted by the IU breast cancer research leadership.

Mary Beth is convinced she and all cancer survivors are alive today because of the ongoing and evolving research that has led to new treatments for cancer. She once saw a bumper sticker that asked, “Got hope?” to which she replied, “Yeah, I got hope!” We’re certain you do, too, and that Mary Beth’s story and the hard work of the dedicated breast cancer researchers at IU will inspire you to contribute to 100 Voices of Hope to further the goal of finding treatments for metastatic breast cancer. By making a $1,000 donation, you can personally help fund a hunch that could lead to saving the life of a loved one or a close friend. It doesn’t get much better than that.