The Key to Fighting the World’s Deadliest Cancer

Special to the Philanthropy Journal

By Nancy M. Sanford

For more than a decade, the Lung Cancer Research Foundation and Free to Breathe have been working tirelessly in the fight against lung cancer, the number one cause of cancer death worldwide. Though operating in two different parts of the country, our organizations often crossed paths. We attended the same conferences, were part of the same lung cancer advocacy communities and even funded some of the same investigators through our grant programs.

Over the years we witnessed the growth and influence of each other’s’ organization—the Lung Cancer Research Foundation continued to build its Scientific Grant Program, ultimately positioning itself as the leading nonprofit funder of lung cancer research. While still supporting research, Free to Breathe grew its event series and patient education programs, becoming the go-to source for lung cancer advocates, patients and survivors.

You can accomplish more together than you can alone. The Lung Cancer Research Foundation saw the value in coming together with a like-minded organization. In 2015, the Lung Cancer Research Foundation merged with Uniting Against Lung Cancer, another lung cancer research organization based in New York City. This merger proved that committed lung cancer advocacy organizations can increase their effectiveness by combining into a larger, more efficient foundation. The result was a more robust grant program, helping to make an even greater impact on lung cancer research.

With one merger under its belt, the Lung Cancer Research Foundation saw the benefits of joining forces with an organization that has a similar mission. We were ready to grow our organization again, this time spreading our roots beyond the east coast.

Based in the Midwest, merging with our lung cancer colleagues at Free to Breathe made complete sense. From a small start in Madison, WI, Free to Breathe has rapidly built a national presence, staging events in over 30 states, and supporting patients, clinicians, and researchers across the country.

Both of our organizations work to improve lung cancer outcomes, although we’ve had different focuses. By coming together, we will now achieve what no one else has done before, in order to be the nation’s pre-eminent funder of lung cancer research.

We have already accomplished so much—together the Lung Cancer Research Foundation and Free to Breathe have funded 342 grants, totaling nearly $34 million. We already have an impressive legacy, and this merger allows us to accomplish even more.

By coming together, the Lung Cancer Research Foundation now has a truly national footprint, which will introduce our cause to more people than ever before. So many of us have been touched by lung cancer, and we hope that we will continue to build strong personal connections between patients, families, clinicians and investigators. We are so passionate about what we do, and it is the reason we’ve had so much success thus far. We hope to build on this momentum as we enter this new chapter, and will continue fighting against this deadly disease.

It has been about three months since the required merger documentation was approved by the New York State Attorney General. During this time, we merged our Board of Directors and are in the process of integrating our offices. As we combine our events and develop our programmatic activities for 2018, we know that utilizing each organization’s strengths will be the key to our success. 

Our ultimate success is yet to come: a world free of lung cancer.

To learn more about the merger, check out our video by clicking here.


The Lung Cancer Research Foundation and Free to Breathe merged on September 30, 2017. The Lung Cancer Research Foundation name has been retained to reflect the combined entity’s shared mission: to improve lung cancer outcomes by funding research for the prevention, diagnosis treatment and cure of lung cancer. In addition to funding lung cancer research, the organization focuses on lung cancer awareness and education programs. The Foundation will host over 50 public events nationwide through the Free to Breathe Event Series.

The newly expanded Lung Cancer Research Foundation is headquartered in New York City, with a second office in Madison, WI, and additional staff throughout the country. For more information, please visit www.lungcancerresearchfoundation.org or www.freetobreathe.org.


Nancy M. Sanford is the Lung Cancer Research Foundation’s Executive Director. Ms. Sanford has over 30 years of nonprofit development experience. Through her leadership, millions of dollars have been granted in support of research programs.

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