S.D. Ireland Cancer Research Fund
Here is a great article on Dr. Krag from the Vermont Woman magazine.
Here is an article on Kim Ireland, cofounder with her husband, Scott, of the S.D. Ireland Cancer Research Fund
An interview with David Krag, MD
Emily asked David some questions to get us ready for the insert to the pink kit, and wanted to share his answers with you.
E: Do donations like this (i.e from small companies and individuals rather than big grants) really make a difference? How? What kinds of things does the money go toward?
D: Yes donations make a huge difference. Cancer research in my lab is supported by grant funding. A successful grant generally provides funds for about 3 years. The application process takes nearly a year. So…applications must begin after only 2 years of work on a grant. The amount of time spent on a grant application is phenomenal and accounts for a significant percent of my time. What a distraction. Certainly not all grants are funded and in fact with the current budget deficits it is expected that less than 10% of grants will be funded. Imagine the amount of time it takes to assemble the scientists and technicians to work on a problem. If the grant does not come through suddenly there is no money for salaries. It would be like starting all over again with a new group of people. Donated funds provide the interim support to keep the critical mass of researchers together. This is a very important issue. Donated funds have allowed me to keep the lab together as grants ebb and flow. So the donated funds are not the primary source of funds but provide critical sustaining support. Stability is important.
Successful grants are usually given to methodical and the least risky research. Functionally, the reviewers want to see preliminary data. Preliminary data is only obtained through research. Since most investigators are funded mostly by grants, they do not go after risky research. However, big leaps of science and breakthroughs are often achieved by the most risky and speculative research. Donated funds allow immediate action on wild and crazy ideas. The sentinel node work that I did in the early 1990s was initiated by donated funds! Without those funds I do not know if I ever would have been able to kick that off.
Many cancer funding groups use their money for education and support. These are of course noble and important missions. Our belief is that if we find cures, education and support will not be needed because the problem is resolved. So funds that go through the SD Ireland Cancer Research Foundation are used directly for research.
The other difference donated funds make is that funds allow the initial research steps to be performed. This may be the risky research I described above. That preliminary data is used as the foundation for grant applications. In my lab much of the research is initiated through donated funds and then sustained by grants. The bang for the buck is really good and I have obtained better than 10 grant dollars for every 1 dollar donated.
E: What made you choose to enter the field of surgical oncology and begin conducting cancer research?
When I walked in the admissions office at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, CA I was asked why I wanted to go to UOP. The answer was to get the college education that would prepare me for medical school so that I could be a physician researcher. I had no idea at the time which area of medicine this would be and even starting medical school the last thing I imagined was surgery. When I saw the successes and limitations of managing cancer it became clear that this was the problem for me to tackle. This disease affects young, old and everyone in between. People wake up in the morning ready for a beautiful day and find a lump in the breast. No way. This has to be fixed.
E: Any words of optimism or hope to pass on to people who’d like to support breast cancer research through buying the kit and through future donations to the Ireland Fund?
The breast cancer problem is completely solvable. There are great researchers with great ideas and teams of doctors ready to deliver what comes out of the research labs. It only has a price tag. Every single dollar is meaningful. That single donated dollar connects the donor with all the other caring people that want this problem to be eradicated.
E: There are lots of knitters in this family, including your son, Christopher, who attends Waldorf school. Any words on knitting?
Knitting is a thoughtful art. I believe that collecting those thoughts is very powerful. Your efforts to bridge those thoughts together will have a direct positive impact on many, many people.