Since its beginning Fight Colorectal Cancer-formally The Colorectal Cancer Coalition (C3)-in 2005, advocacy has been the key component of its mission. When founder and chair Nancy Roach established the organization, it was because she saw an unfilled need for advocacy for colorectal cancer. And that advocacy is certainly needed; according to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer is the third most common form of cancer.
An early focus-and success-of Fight Colorectal Cancer, among other groups, was the push to have colorectal cancer included in the Department of Defense's Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs. And since 2009, CDMRP's Peer Reviewed Cancer program has funded more than $6 million in colorectal cancer research. That was an important component in Fight Colorectal Cancer's larger mission: that a cancer of such prevalence was in need of greater awareness from funders and the public.
"[It was important] bringing a spotlight that research dollars weren't coming to colorectal cancer," said Anjee Davis, the organization's interim executive director.
While colorectal cancer has become more of a priority, Davis said more money is necessary for a disease that was expected to kill more than 50,000 people in 2013. And conquering colorectal cancer isn't a mission solely for researchers; preventive measures, including programs from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are just as critical. Fight Colorectal Cancer advocates for them as well.
The CDC's colorectal cancer screening program has helped prevent deaths from the disease in more than half of the states as well as four Native American tribes. Moreover, it helps narrow a disparity between ethnicities and groups.
"There is a higher mortality rate among African-Americans," Davis said, "and there are lower screening rates within the tribal nations and within the African-American community. As far as an outreach and awareness, we have a campaign called One Million Strong. The campaign highlights the 1 million survivors living in the U.S. today. We're launching that in March in New York City, but we're also incorporating outreach to the African-American community ... There's a definite disparity there and [it's] an issue that needs to be addressed."
The One Million Strong program is entering its second year; its public unveiling came a year ago in Times Square with the help of survivors, advocates and some star power, among them singers Sheryl Crow and Charles Kelley (of the country group Lady Antebellum) and five-time Major League Baseball All-Star Frank White. March also marks Fight Colorectal Cancer's 8th annual Call-on Congress, in which advocates descend on Capitol Hill to increase awareness among policy makers.
Research!America's eye on Congress has been an important reason why Fight Colorectal Cancer joined the alliance.
"I specifically, when I started two years ago, wanted to join Research!America, because of the work [it does] in monitoring research dollars and where the Members of Congress are voting," Davis said. "The thing that I value the most is probably seeing the impact of those research dollars at the state level. So, for us, it was like having kind of an extension of our staff-we couldn't have the studies done, so it was very helpful for our advocacy efforts to be armed with insightful reports and data that we can us in the community."