A Conversation With Conquer Cancer CEO Nancy Daly: What Matters Most Is What Comes Next

Headshot of Conquer Cancer CEO Nancy Daly. She has shoulder-length brown hair and is wearing a gold necklace, white shirt and black blazer, smiling facing forward against a gray background.

Nancy Daly, MS, MPH, is the CEO of Conquer Cancer®, the ASCO Foundation. She brings experience as a clinical nurse at Johns Hopkins Oncology Center, director of operations in the Radiation Oncology Department at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center University, and director of the Chemical-Modifier Program at the Joint Center for Radiotherapy at Harvard Medical School. She moved from the clinical world to the professional society space, working first with the American Society for Radiation Oncology (ASTRO) as director of government relations.

In 2004, Ms. Daly joined ASCO as director of cancer research policy. Subsequently, she became the director of grants for The ASCO Cancer Foundation, the predecessor to Conquer Cancer. In 2016, she transitioned to chief philanthropic officer and executive vice president for Conquer Cancer and in 2020 she assumed the role of CEO.

In a few words, how does Conquer Cancer's mission translate into supporting cancer research?
ND: Our mission is to “accelerate breakthroughs in lifesaving research.” To me, that means we need the brightest minds to pursue cancer research—all over the world—so we can make progress faster. In essence, we need to ensure there are resources to support the best people working to conquer cancer.   
What does Conquer Cancer’s mission mean to you personally?
ND: For me, it’s all about our core values: people, discovery, and impact. The work we do focuses first and foremost on people: finding and funding the people who improve treatment and care for patients. We do this by accelerating scientific discovery: connecting researchers with the resources they need to find new treatments and cures. This promotes meaningful and tangible impact over the long term—impact that helps patients everywhere, across every type of cancer, get the high-quality care they deserve.   
What makes Conquer Cancer different?
ND: Conquer Cancer is the world’s largest funder of early-career oncology researchers—this is what sets us apart. We jumpstart careers and then continue to provide support throughout the career continuum.   
Cancer is a big problem. You need more than just funding. You’ve got to find the best people—at every stage of their career, no matter where in the world they work and live—to approach the problem in different and meaningful ways. And we provide research support for every type of cancer. This all-encompassing approach ensures progress can be sustained. We can tap into ASCO’s diverse membership because they are the world’s brainpower when it comes to cancer. There’s no better pool of talent.  
What problems are donors helping to solve?
ND: Donors have always been the bridge between scientific discoveries and vital breakthroughs. Behind many successful patient outcomes is a research breakthrough. And behind every researcher is the silent hero—the donor—who provides the financial boost they need to focus on their ideas. Donors help turn promising ideas into new screening, prevention, and treatment options for clinicians on the front lines.    
What role do ASCO members play in Conquer Cancer’s efforts?
ND: We exist to fuel ASCO’s priorities in research, education, and delivery of the highest quality, equitable patient care. That’s why we invite ASCO members to share patient success stories—positive health outcomes made possible by cancer research. We also encourage members to engage with Conquer Cancer’s content on social media. These channels provide a glimpse into everything that’s happening on the foundation front, including grant opportunities, grant-writing workshops, virtual fundraising events, donor support for research, and more. Members also participate on committees, and we value the expertise they bring to the Grants Selection Committee, among others.   
What keeps you up at night?
ND: A lot! The long-term implications of the pandemic on cancer. Health disparities. The economy. Finding new ways to engage our incredible membership and Board of Directors. Finding and retaining a wonderful staff. Most of all, sustaining the financial health of the organization to continue all the great programs and services year after year! On the bright side, I sleep well enough because of all the innovative research that is happening thanks to the sustained commitment of Conquer Cancer donors.     
What are you proudest of?
ND: Our donors, who continue to support us even in tough times as reflected in the last few years. The Board and ASCO volunteers, who have day jobs but find the time to spend hours supporting us. We also have an amazing staff who are so dedicated and committed, which allows us to deliver on our mission and vision!   
All three of these constituencies stepped up during the pandemic. They reignited and reaffirmed our long-standing efforts around equity, diversity, and inclusion. And more recently, they are rallying around ASCO’s goal to make a global impact for patients everywhere.   
How is Conquer Cancer innovative?
ND: We believe in the power of partnership and have been fortunate to work with several other cancer charities who provide support for many of our grants, awards, and programs. We recently identified an opportunity to use the expertise in the grant selection process by providing EveryGrant, which is an end-to-end white label solution helping organizations develop and deliver grants programs that attract the brightest researchers and make a difference for people with cancer everywhere.   
What inspires you to keep going?
ND: What matters most is what comes next. I’ve been with Conquer Cancer for 19 years. In 2024, we celebrate our 25th anniversary. Each June, I watch the next generation of researchers on stage at our Grants and Awards Ceremony at the ASCO Annual Meeting. It’s still a thrill for me. Because of them, I know the future of cancer care is in good hands.