When you attend a Voices of Hope performance, the joy of theater will stem from a group of very special people, all of whom have been impacted by cancer in some way. Some members are cancer survivors themselves; some are care providers or partners to a loved one battling cancer; some are the parents, grandparents, friends or children of someone with a cancer diagnosis. All of these remarkable people come together not only to serve as a support system for each other, but also as a force for good in the world of cancer research.
Bonded By Shared Experience
Voices of Hope is a nonprofit that uses theater as their vehicle to fundraise — organizing elaborate performances featuring more than 150 active members. Performances range from cabaret shows to traditional musicals, like Fiddler on the Roof, to singing the National Anthem at Celtics, Red Sox and Patriots games. Voices of Hope uses their talent and personal experience to help fund life-saving cancer research and clinical trials at the Henri and Belinda Termeer Center for Targeted Therapies at Massachusetts General Hospital.
“Being a member of Voices of Hope is like being part of a family — we take care of each other, we check in on each other,” says founder and president Greg Chastain. “The cancer club is not one anybody wants to be a part of, but if I’m going to be a part of something, these are the people I want to do it with.” It is a tight knit group bonded not only by its members’ shared love of music and performance, but also by the community they have each found. “We love musical theater, but we have another shared understanding — of what it’s like to live in the throes of a cancer diagnosis,” says Dana Siegal, the group’s artistic director. “We are all united in the pain and fear of cancer, but we’re driven by hope for the future.”
A Unique Philanthropic Partnership
Voices of Hope is fast approaching their goal of raising $1 million for cancer research at the Termeer Center. But philanthropy is just one of the ways the group makes an impact at Mass General. Two members sit on the Termeer Center’s Institutional Review Board, providing the all-important “patient perspective” in a setting that can sometimes lack just that. They review proposed clinical trials, often scouring hundreds of pages of an application, to ensure that each step of the process is clear and accessible to patients who might participate in a trial.
“Our relationship with Voices of Hope is special because it’s not just about philanthropy, it’s about the human dimension.”
Dejan Juric, MD
“The Termeer Center’s basic model is to conduct high-risk, hypothesis-generating research with a smaller number of samples, and then generate a sufficient amount of high-quality preliminary data to support a larger federally funded project or to rapidly modify the clinical structure to increase the chance of success,” Dejan Juric, MD, director of the Termeer Center, explains. And that’s exactly what Voices of Hope has been able to accomplish: they have provided funding that has helped the Termeer Center generate preliminary data that has, in turn, led to further funding from organizations like the Department of Defense and the National Cancer Institute.
The Human Dimension
In addition to providing invaluable support for Dr. Juric and his team at the Termeer Center to advance groundbreaking cancer research projects, Voices of Hope also helps fund active clinical trials, as well as nursing grants that focus on research aimed at improving the clinical care that patients undergoing trial treatments receive.
Casandra McIntyre, nurse director at Termeer, is working to make clinical trials more accessible and equitable, an effort Voices of Hope funding helps support. “There’s a lack of diversity in general within clinical trials,” she says. “The participating populations tend to be mostly white and upper or middle class, and we’re working hard to change that.”
Transportation is a major barrier to accessing treatment for many patients from diverse and underserved communities. To address this, Casandra has used Voices of Hope funding to establish a ride-share program for patients to get to and from the treatment center without any financial burden. “This was a game-changer for so many,” Casandra says.
“Our relationship with Voices of Hope is special because it’s not just about philanthropy, it’s about the human dimension,” says Dr. Juric. “Sometimes we forget how we impact those around us. The trials we conduct are very complex, and it’s easy to get lost in the minutia. They remind me why we’re doing this.”
To learn more about the Henri and Belinda Termeer Center for Targeted Therapies, please contact us.