• National Cancer Institute
  • National Human Genome Research Institute
PERSPECTIVES

Posted: February 1, 2011

The Power of Volunteerism

Susan Love with other women.
Image: Dr. Susan Love, third from right, at a Love/Avon Army of Women event.

Susan Love, M.D. President and Medical Director, Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation

It is important to point out and appreciate the key role that the individual volunteer has in the research process. Whether it is signing up for the Love/Avon Army of Women, participating in a clinical treatment trial or donating tissue for a project such as The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA), it all brings us a step closer to finding the cause and cure of cancer. Science is not something done out there or in a laboratory in Washington, D.C. Science is done by having all of us engaged in asking the questions and participating in finding the answers. Without volunteers that were willing to participate in clinical trials of the cervical cancer vaccine, we would not know it worked. And without people willing to donate their tissue, TCGA would not be possible. There is only so much that can be learned through studying animal models and cell lines but in the end it is human tumors in humans that will teach us the most.

There is a tendency among researchers to take for granted the source of the tissues that they study. The science is so interesting that it overwhelms the fact that actual people have agreed to allow their tissues to be part of research. These people are often the unsung heroes and heroines of projects such as TCGA! Without their generosity, none of this research would be possible. This research belongs to all of us, is paid for by all of us and works because of all the individual participants.