Frequently Asked Questions

Cancer Facts

How many forms of cancer are there?

The word “cancer” is used to refer to any of the 200 different diseases, affecting many parts of the body, that are characterized by the uncontrolled growth of cells that invade and damage the body’s normal tissues. Cancer can begin in organ tissues as well as the skin, bone, cartilage, fat, muscle, blood vessels, immune system, and bone marrow. These cells can form tumors, although not all cancers do. In some cases, cancer cells spread from their original site to other places in the body via the bloodstream or lymphatic system, a process called metastasis.

How common is cancer?

In the United States alone, more than one million people are diagnosed with cancer each year — and it remains the second-leading cause of death. In the U.S., 1 out of 3 women and 1 out of 2 men can expect to develop cancer at some point during their lifetimes. This group’s risk of dying from certain cancers has decreased in recent years, perhaps through better screening methods and more effective treatments, but there has been no drop in new cases of cancers.

Globally, about 13% of all deaths are due to cancer—8.8 million in 2015.

[Sources: American Cancer Society, World Health Organization]

What causes cancer?

At the cellular level, cancer occurs when a cell’s DNA becomes damaged and cannot be repaired. Cancer starts in just one cell, and there are several stages in cancer development—from precancerous changes to malignant tumors. Different cancers develop at different rates. Many different factors can play a role, from genetics (the BRCA genes, for example) to lifestyle habits (such as smoking, diet, and sun-tanning) to environmental exposures to harmful substances. Viral and bacterial infections also can lead to certain cancers, such as the hepatitis virus in liver cancer, Helicobacter pylori in stomach cancer, and the HPV virus in cervical cancer. The immune system plays an important role both in controlling or preventing cancer as well as promoting cancer growth and spread.

What’s the relationship between genes and cancer?

Genes are segments of DNA located on chromosomes. Mutations can occur over time, sometimes because of exposure to environmental factors such as smoking or viruses, and those changes can cause cells to become cancerous. As a result, increased age alone can be a risk factor for cancer: More than 75% of all cancer cases are diagnosed in people aged 55 or older. Only about 5% to 10% of cancers are genetically inherited, and those cancers tend to occur earlier in life. Oncogenes are genes that cause cancer, while tumor suppressor genes play a role in controlling or stopping cancer.

How is cancer treated?

The “modalities” used to treat cancer are surgery, chemotherapy (including targeted therapies like small molecules), radiation therapy, and immunotherapy, usually in some combination. Treatment plans vary from patient to patient based on the type and stage of cancer. In cancer immunotherapy, patients are given biological substances that have potential to activate or boost their own immune response to cancer. These substances can be laboratory-produced versions of antibodies or the body’s own defense cells.

Where can I find definitions for some of the terms used on this site?

Go to our ImmunoGlossary page to search or browse our list of medical and scientific terms. You also may want to consult the MedlinePlus encyclopedia and the National Cancer Institute website.

Cancer immunotherapy

What is cancer immunology?

Cancer immunology studies the relationship between cancer and the body’s immune system, including its innate ability to prevent or eliminate cancer cells, called immunosurveillance. Research shows that the body’s natural defense mechanisms can recognize and target cancer cells. Cancer immunologists focus on developing immunotherapies to boost those natural defenses.

What are immunotherapies?

Cancer immunotherapies also are known as biologic therapy, biotherapy, or biological response modifier therapy, and include checkpoint blockade, cancer vaccines, monoclonal antibodies, oncolytic virus therapy, T cell transfer, and other immune-modulating drugs such as cytokines and other adjuvant therapies. These effective ways for preventing, managing, or treating different cancers can be used in conjunction with surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation.

Is cancer immunology a new field of research?

The earliest forms of what would later be considered the start of cancer immunotherapy originated with research done by Dr. William B. Coley (1862-1936), a cancer surgeon and father of CRI founder Helen Coley Nauts. He discovered that “killed” bacteria stimulated the immune system to attack cancer cells. Modern cancer immunology is based on more recent advances in scientific understanding of the immune system’s various components, their function, and their role in cancer control. Cancer immunology is a relatively young field, but advances in treatment are aided by donor support.

Where can I get more information about immunology?

About Cancer Research Institute (CRI)

What is the Cancer Research Institute?

The Cancer Research Institute is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization that raises funds for cancer immunology research from individuals, corporations, and foundations. We provide direct support to scientists through fellowships, grants, and awards. Our mission is to save more lives by fueling the discovery and development of powerful immunotherapies for all types of cancer. We aim to accomplish this through our support and coordination of research that will yield an understanding of the immune system and its response to cancer, with the ultimate goal of developing immunological methods for the treatment, control, and prevention of the disease.

¿Cómo puedo obtener el informe anual del CRI?

Puede descargar nuestro último informe anual del sitio web, o request a printed copy by mail. También puede solicitarlo a la Oficina de Instituciones Benéficas (Charities Bureau) de la oficina del Fiscal General del Estado de Nueva York, 28 Liberty Street, New York, NY 10005. El CRI está registrado en los 50 estados de EE. UU. y es posible obtener más información en la oficina de registro de entidades benéficas de la oficina local de Fiscalía General, en la Secretaría de Estado o en la división de servicios al consumidor. El registro o la licencia de las organizaciones sin fines de lucro no supone su aprobación por parte del estado. 

Where is CRI located?

We are administratively headquartered in New York City, and we fund research all throughout the United States and around the world. In addition, our Scientific Advisory Council includes representatives from the U.S. and other nations. CRI has a commitment to the global community of cancer scientists and patients.

How did CRI get its start?

Cancer Research Institute was incorporated on January 27, 1953. CRI was founded by Helen Coley Nauts (1907-2001) and her friend Oliver R. Grace (1909-1992) with a $2,000 grant from Nelson Rockefeller. Ms. Nauts established the institute in honor of her father, Dr. William B. Coley, an early pioneer of non-surgical, immunological treatments for cancer who today is considered the “Father of Cancer Immunotherapy.”

Who oversees CRI’s operations?

CRI is guided by its core staff and a diverse and all-volunteer Board of Trustees that includes corporate, financial, and philanthropic leaders. Research decisions are made by our Scientific Advisory Council, an esteemed body of immunologists and cancer immunologists that includes Nobel Prize winners and members of the National Academy of Sciences.

Who decides which scientists receive funding from CRI?

Funding decisions are made by our Scientific Advisory Council, which evaluates all fellowship, grant, and award applications. Many of the world’s most distinguished immunologists serve on the council, including Nobel Prize winners and members of the National Academy of Sciences, among other distinguished groups. The council is headed by a director and five associate directors. View our current grantees in our funding directory.

How can I stay up to date on what’s happening at CRI?

The best way to stay current on developments at CRI is to read and subscribe to our blog or check the news and press releases section of our website. You can also sign up for our e-updates. You’ll receive e-mail announcements about newsworthy research breakthroughs, landmark donations, and upcoming events. Follow us on social media, including Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube, Flickr, and Inspire.

Giving to CRI

Who can donate to CRI?

Anyone who has an interest in helping to advance the fight against cancer is encouraged to donate to CRI. Individuals can make cash donations and also include CRI in their estate planning or planned giving. Corporations and foundations also can make donations.

Are there tax benefits for donating to CRI?

CRI is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization, so your donations are deductible for federal or state tax purposes as allowed by law. Planned giving, which can encompass bequests and gift annuities, may offer other tax or financial planning advantages as well.

In 2020, U.S. taxpayers can take advantage of new charitable giving incentives in the U.S. Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Taxpayers who do not itemize their returns may receive a tax deduction of up to $300 for cash donations to 501(c)(3) nonprofit organizations. Taxpayers who itemize returns may now deduct up to 100% of their Adjusted Gross Income on cash donations. Corporations may now deduct up to 25% of taxable income. Please consult your tax advisor for more information.

What is the minimum donation amount?

We’re grateful for a donation in any amount. However, to combat credit card fraud, we require a $5 minimum for donations made online via the CRI website. Many CRI donors find it affordable to donate smaller amounts via automatic monthly payments rather than make a single, larger gift. Some donors find that planned giving arrangements allow them to give more generously to CRI. Finally, some individuals prefer to organize fundraisers for CRI, and our Community Fundraising Team is here to help.

Why is CRI a good choice for my charitable support?

Through our strategic programs, CRI is leading global efforts to bring new immune-based treatments to patients sooner. Our focus on immunotherapy – which is applicable in the treatment of almost all types of cancer – means our donors are making an impact in the lives of more cancer patients. We are proud to have one of the lowest overhead expense ratios among nonprofit organizations. Historically, between 85 and 90 cents of every dollar donated to us goes to our research and medical education programs.

How do “charity watchdog” organizations rate CRI?

We consistently earn high marks from charity watchdog organizations, including an A or higher from the American Institute of Philanthropy. We are also a proud member of the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance, the most rigorous evaluator of charity activity with 20 standards of accountability and ethical practice. We have 4 out of 4 stars from Charity Navigator, the nation’s largest and most utilized evaluator of charities; an A grade from Charity Watch; and a Platinum Participant Seal from GuideStar.

Where can I view CRI’s latest financial statements?

Visit our Accountability page for to access our most recent audited financials, IRS forms 990, and annual reports.

How does CRI use donations?

CRI turns donations into direct research and educational support for the world’s top cancer scientists and medical professionals. CRI grants and fellowships help to provide crucial resources for laboratory work and clinical trials, including personnel, equipment, and supplies. We also host conferences and meetings for the global scientific community. CRI donations also are used for cancer immunology awareness and education for patients and the public.

What can I donate to CRI?

In addition to making “cash” donations by check, credit card, or donor advised fund, individuals can donate vehicles and securities. You also can make a planned gift, by including CRI in your will or estate plans. You may also be interested in workplace giving, which allows you to make regular payroll contributions to CRI, or check if your employer matches employee gifts. You could also shop online with AmazonSmile or GoodShop, You could also generate donations to CRI through community fundraising or cause-related marketing.

Can I donate in memory or honor of someone?

You can make donations in memory or honor of someone important to you. You also can designate that your donation be used for certain kinds of research or CRI programs. Our online donation forms, as well as donations made by phone or mail, allow you to request that we send a card notifying others of your gift. Donors may also choose to make a fundraiser in memory or honor of someone You can contact our development staff with questions about naming or directing your donations or fundraisers.

How do I make a donation?

Following are the ways for individuals, trusts, foundations, and corporations to make donations of cash to CRI:

Click here to go to our secure donation form. Mastercard, Visa, American Express, and Discover are accepted.

To donate via credit card, call us at 1-800-99-CANCER. Our donation line is open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. ET.

You can also download and print our mail donation form (PDF). Send your check payable to “Cancer Research Institute” to:

Cancer Research Institute
Web Donation
29 Broadway, Floor 4
New York, NY 10006-3111

We will acknowledge your donation and provide a receipt for tax purposes.

Can I include CRI in my will, estate, or long-term financial plans?

We are grateful to those donors who are willing and able to make significant or continuous donations to CRI through planned giving arrangements. One option is to make CRI a beneficiary of your estate by will or trust. You also can donate through any charitable remainder trusts, charitable lead trusts, and charitable gift annuities that you establish as well as through gifts of life insurance policies and retirement plan assets. Contact Rupinder Kaur at [email protected] or (212) 688-7515 x241 to discuss your options and see which one(s) may be right for you.

Besides making a donation, are there other ways I can help CRI?

Friends of CRI have planned fundraising events on our behalf and also encouraged their employers to establish workplace giving programs, which enable people to contribute regularly to CRI through payroll deductions. You can also help generate donations to CRI just by shopping online at Amazon or GoodShop. At no extra cost to you, your purchase will trigger a donation of a percentage of the sale. Percentages vary based on the store. You could also generate donations to CRI through community fundraising (including Facebook fundraisers) or cause-related marketing.

You can also help to spread the word about our important work by joining us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, or Instagram, and sharing our posts with your friends.

Does CRI sell or trade its donor information to outside parties?

Under no circumstances will CRI sell, trade, or share your information to outside parties. All personal data are kept confidential. Please refer to our Privacy Policy to learn more about how CRI uses and protects your information.

My caller ID says “Cancer Research” every time I get an automated telephone solicitation. Is that CRI?

No. CRI does not solicit funds via telephone campaigns and does not use automated services for this purpose.

Patient information

What is a clinical trial?

Clinical trials are well-defined, well-monitored, and controlled tests of new or experimental medical treatments. They are used to assess the effectiveness, side effects, and potential applications of medications, procedures, and other treatment approaches. Clinical trials are essential for medical progress, and patients can enroll in them voluntarily under the supervision of their physicians. Before a treatment is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), it must be studied in clinical trials. CRI offers a free Immunotherapy Clinical Trial Finder service to help patients and their caregivers locate and enroll in trials.

Does CRI provide support to cancer patients and families?

CRI’s site contains patient guides with helpful clinical information on cancer topics, educational articles on cancer and the immune system, and helpful links to other resources for patients. Unfortunately, we are not able to provide direct financial support to patients.

How can I find information about new cancer treatments?

If you want to explore your clinical research and treatment options, we can help you to locate clinical trials that may be appropriate matches for your type and stage of cancer. We do not make treatment recommendations, however, and we encourage patients to share this information with their medical care teams. Visit our Clinical Trial Finder for more information.

What kind of patients benefit from CRI-funded research?

We support a wide range of projects in immunology, including clinical trials for many different kinds and stages of cancer. Visit our Immunotherapy Stories page to read the personal stories of some of the patients who have enrolled in these trials and experienced positive clinical outcomes, or join the ImmunoCommunity to connect directly with patients. To see a list of our ongoing immunotherapy clinical trials, visit our Clinical Accelerator Portfolio.

Resources at CRI

How can CRI assist the press in covering cancer topics?

Reporters, writers, and other media professionals interested in interviewing CRI-sponsored researchers, members of our staff, or patients enrolled in immunological clinical trials can call us at (212) 688-7515 or contact us online. We offer press badges to our scientific meetings and other events. Visit our News section to find news releases on recent discoveries and noteworthy events.

What publications does CRI have?

In addition to our annual report, we produce

How can I get on CRI’s mailing list?

Sign up to receive our e-newsletter and alerts about CRI news and events. To receive printed copies of our annual report, newsletters, or patient guides, visit the Contact Us page. Also check our Stay Informed page for other resources.

Support for scientists

Which scientists are eligible to receive support from CRI?

Cancer scientists at nonprofit research or clinical institutions can apply for fellowships, grants, and awards. CRI has supported many initiatives, from basic laboratory studies to clinical trials testing novel immunotherapies. Proposed research must be immunology-based, preferably with the potential for direct application to cancer treatment.

Are scientists who work outside the U.S. eligible for CRI support?

Yes. To date, CRI has given fellowships and grants to more than 3,200 scientists in the United States and abroad.

What kind of support is available to scientists?

CRI offers postdoctoral fellowships for advanced immunology training at top institutions and practicing cancer immunologists can apply for the Clinic and Laboratory Integration Program (CLIP), which funds two years of support for translational research. We also offer other funding opportunities. Learn more about our grants and programs.

How does a researcher apply for funding from CRI?

For application information, visit our Grants and Programs page. All funding decisions are made by our Scientific Advisory Council.

How can I find out which scientists are receiving CRI support?

Browse our funding directory to see where CRI support is helping to transform cancer treatment.

What is the William B. Coley Award?

The annual William B. Coley Award for Distinguished Research in Basic and Tumor Immunology, named for our founder’s father, a pioneer in the non-surgical treatment of cancer, is announced at our Annual Awards Dinner. This $5,000 prize and medal recognize scientists who’ve made outstanding contributions to cancer or basic immunology research. View our list of winners since 1975.

Does CRI give any awards to non-scientists?

Since 1995, CRI has given the annual Oliver R. Grace Award for Distinguished Service in Advancing Cancer Research to dedicated laypersons whose leadership has had a significant impact on cancer research. It is named in honor of CRI’s founding chairman. There is a list of award medal recipients since 1995.

Team CRI fundraising

What materials can CRI provide me with for my event?

CRI has created a Team CRI Fundraising Kit [PDF] to help community fundraisers get started and plan successful fundraising events, including general Team CRI guidelines, event ideas and “how-to” materials, and sample language and templates. For your event, CRI can provide donation envelopes and donor tracking forms, facts sheets on CRI and cancer immunotherapy, and other resources as available, such as CRI stickers or other promotional items.

How can I obtain these materials?

When you register to join Team CRI, you will automatically receive our Team CRI Fundraising Kit via email. To request additional materials for your fundraiser, email us at [email protected] and indicate the type and quantity of materials requested. We will try to accommodate your request as available resources allow. Please allow up to three weeks for mail delivery. If you would like more than the quantity provided or if you would like to help save costs for CRI by printing the materials yourself, please contact us and we will provide you with the electronic documents.

Can a CRI representative attend my event?

Because the Cancer Research Institute has a very lean staff, we are generally unable to represent CRI at independent fundraising events. We are happy to provide materials and messaging, which you can find in our Team CRI Fundraising Kit and other complimentary event materials, which will help you tell the CRI story and convey the impact and importance of our work.

Can I use the CRI logo to create promotional materials?

Yes, as long as the logo is used in accordance with our Community Fundraising Terms and Conditions. The CRI staff can provide you with a color logo or a black and white version. All Team CRI event materials that will bear the CRI logo must be submitted to CRI for review and approval before they are made public. This includes, but is not limited to, press releases, pitch letters, printed or electronic advertisements, save-the-dates and invitations, brochures, shirts or other apparel, banners, and any other form of event collateral. Please allow one to two weeks for approval from our communications department.

Can the Cancer Research Institute help promote my event in the media?

The Cancer Research Institute evaluates opportunities for media promotion on a case-by-case basis, depending on staff time, resources, the nature of the fundraising event, and the amount of lead time prior to the event. If you would like us to help promote your event, please contact us at [email protected] and describe the type of media promotion assistance you are seeking. We will evaluate your request and respond within two weeks. We encourage you to use the tools and suggestions for reaching out to media provided in our Team CRI Fundraising Kit.

Are there ways my company can help with my fundraising efforts?

One of the easiest ways to boost your fundraising is through employer matching gifts. Many companies offer employees a matching gift benefit that doubles or sometimes triples your gift. Contact your company’s Human Resources or Finance department to see if they match charitable donations, or use our MatchFinder to see if your employer is in our database of companies with matching gift programs. Follow the instructions provided, fill out the proper forms provided by your company, and send your paperwork in along with your donations to the Cancer Research Institute. Also, be sure to encourage your donors to look into opportunities for matching gifts. By participating in these programs, you and your donors can significantly increase the impact of your support

How do I make it clear that this event is supporting the Cancer Research Institute?

Please indicate on all materials that proceeds from the event will benefit the Cancer Research Institute. CRI can also provide a formal letter of support upon request, which is often helpful as an assurance to donors and potential sponsors that CRI is aware of the event and that proceeds will be directed to CRI. To request a formal letter of support, email us at [email protected].

Can the Cancer Research Institute help in covering costs associated with my event?

The Cancer Research Institute cannot provide funding for expenses related to community fundraising events. There are many ways to limit event-related costs, such as securing in-kind donations from local businesses. More information can be found in the Team CRI Fundraising Kit.

Which marathons is CRI partnered with as an official charity?

  • New York Road Runners – TCS New York City Marathon
  • New York Road Runners – UA New York City Half Marathon

Can I be a part of Team CRI and raise money on behalf of the Cancer Research Institute if I gain my own entry to an endurance event or race?

Yes. If you gain entry to a race, you can join Team CRI and raise money on behalf of the Cancer Research Institute. After you independently secure your own entry, please email us at [email protected] so we can add you to the team. You should also set up your own fundraising page through our website. You are not required to raise a certain amount of money. If you are running in a race for which CRI has secured dedicated slots, however, we do encourage you to set your goal at the same level as the athletes who obtained their slots through CRI for that particular race.

Can I donate to Cancer Research Institute proceeds or a portion of proceeds from the sale(s) of an item or collection?

Yes! We greatly appreciate being the beneficiary of your sale. All materials related to the sale should note the percent of proceeds (or dollar amount per item) going to the Cancer Research Institute. If you would like to designate (a portion of) proceeds from sales to CRI, please notify us. We can assist with how you describe your charitable efforts so that it complies with Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance standards.

What if a check is made out to me, not to the Cancer Research Institute?

If a supporter makes the check payable to you, simply endorse the check with your signature, write “Payable to the Cancer Research Institute,” and submit it with a Contribution Form (PDF).

Can I have people give money to me directly and then write a check to Cancer Research Institute from my personal account?

This is not recommended. The IRS will consider any deposits into your personal account as taxable income, and we will not be able to issue tax receipts to your donors for their gifts if the contribution comes from you.

What should I do with cash donations?

Please do not send cash in the mail. If you’re collecting cash donations, you can either have cash donors fill out a Contribution Form (PDF) with their contact information and donation amount, transfer the cash into a cashier’s check, and send both the check and the form to CRI, or use your own credit card to make the donation in your donor’s name online through your event fundraising page.

Who acknowledges my contributors?

The Cancer Research Institute will send an acknowledgment and receipt for tax purposes to those who donate to your fundraising efforts. You should also be sure to send your own personal thank-you message to anyone who responds to your request for support.

Where do I send my donations?

Mail contributions to:

Cancer Research Institute
National Headquarters
29 Broadway, Floor 4
New York, NY 10006-3111

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