How Big Is Walther's Behavioral Oncology Funding?

Cancer treatment is notoriously difficult for patients. Whether curative or just pallative, radiation and chemotherapy can have such severe side effects that patients may opt to forego them entirely. For those who choose to fight, scientists and doctors are looking for new ways to approach treatment.

The Behavioral Cooperative Oncology Group (BCOG) is an interdisciplinary consortium formed by the Walther Cancer Foundation, which funds programs that address the psychological effects of cancer and cancer treatment. (See Walther Cancer Foundation: Grants for Disease.) The BCOG focuses on the field of behavioral or "psycho-"oncology, which encompasses the potential behavioral causes of cancer as well as its effects.

The Walther Foundation gave more than $1.3 million to create BCOG, which includes scientists from Indiana University, Ohio State University, Michigan State University, and the University of Michigan. The money goes to fellowships for predoctoral students, research and training, and an annual colloquium and a scientific retreat.

In 2012, the Walter Foundation contributed more than $20 million to cancer-related causes. All of that money went to universities in the Midwest, and much of it went to recruitment programs. For example, the foundation contributed some $400,000 over five years to fund a new position — a director of pediatric neuro-oncology — at the Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis. And $2.1 million went to Purdue to hire a cancer-focused structural biologist to work in the university's Cancer Center.

The foundation also funds research, although often that research is aimed less at cells and more at spirits. Dr. Susan Hickman of Indiana University received more than $200,000 from Walther to study the decision-making process of the family members of older patients who have incurable cancer. Crucial decisions about whether or not to pursue treatment (and how aggressively to pursue it) are not always made with the best information at hand, and Dr. Hickman will investigate how this process succeeds or fails.

If you're hoping to attract funding from the Walther Foundation, you'll have to rely on a relationship with one of the Midwest's aforementioned universities. And like many charitable foundations hard-hit by the financial crisis, Walther is not currently accepting unsolicited grant applications. But the organization's large endowment and focused interest should make it easy for those involved in behavioral oncology to attract Walther's attention.