25 Years of Conquering Cancer

For a quarter-century, Conquer Cancer has strived to help early-career investigators and the brightest minds in cancer research turn promising ideas into lifesaving realities. 

dr judith kaur
The First Investigator
In 1983, ASCO recognized a big problem in cancer research: there wasn't enough funding for young scientists starting their careers. So, in 1984, they awarded their first Young Investigator Award (YIA) to Dr. Judith Salmon Kaur, who was studying at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center. Dr. Kaur wanted to research monoclonal antibodies, which could help treat melanoma. But getting money for research was tough.

In 1983, Dr. Judith Salmon Kaur, was almost done with her fellowship when her cancer research took a different path.

Like many new doctor-scientists, Dr. Kaur had a promising idea for helping melanoma patients, but she didn't have the money to try it out. This lack of funding often stops researchers and leaves their ideas behind.

Dr. Kaur’s mentor, William Robinson, MD, PhD, encouraged her to apply for a new grant from ASCO, called the Young Investigator Award (YIA). In 1984, she got the great news that she was the first to get this award.

“When I got the award, I felt very lucky,” said Dr. Kaur. “It let me keep studying melanoma. There wasn't any other funding available for someone just finishing their fellowship.”

In 1999, Conquer Cancer became ASCO's official charitable organization and has become the biggest supporter of new cancer researchers worldwide. Conquer Cancer has awarded more than 1,500 YIA grants, totaling $68 million. With a mentor's help, YIA recipients use their funds to try new ideas in cancer research and gather important data for future grants. The outcomes have been impressive, with 96% of all Conquer Cancer grant recipients remaining actively involved in oncology research.

But there's still a lot of work to do. The time between fellowship and getting a faculty job is tough for new researchers, many of whom quit research when they can't find funding. Dr. Kaur wants to change that.

Starting in 2020, Dr. Kaur and her husband began funding a YIA every year. Now, they're going further by funding the Dr. Judith and Alan Kaur Endowed YIA, which is Conquer Cancer’s 25th endowed YIA. This kind of grant gives money every year, forever, so new researchers can keep trying out their ideas.

It's great to help others, especially when there are so many talented young people who might be discouraged about how to get into research and still support their families and secure grants. The YIA changes lives.
Dr. Judith Kaur, pictured with her husband, Alan