publication date: Jul. 12, 2019

Funding Opportunities

Why cancer innovation must go beyond medicine: The C3 Prize search for ideas with the greatest potential for impact


By Mark Reisenauer

Senior vice president, oncology business unit, Astellas


have devoted my career to improving care for people living with cancer. It wasn’t until my father was diagnosed with head and neck cancer that I realized just how complex navigating the cancer care experience can be—and how much I had to learn as a caregiver. To improve the lives of people living with cancer, we must focus on more than treatment and address care holistically.

The need for this type of innovation is what inspired me to spearhead Astellas Oncology’s C3 (Changing Cancer Care) Prize, an annual challenge that funds the best non-treatment ideas to improve cancer care.

Since the launch of the program in 2016, I have been inspired by the ingenuity of the submissions we have received.

For example, in 2018, our Grand Prize winner, Ebele Mbanugo, had an idea to address the cultural and social stigma associated with cancer using a podcast series.

In 2017, Grand Prize winner Hernâni Oliveira pitched an idea to address issues related to physical activity and medication adherence for pediatric patients using a two-part mobile app.

And 2016 Grand Prize winner Diane Jooris is currently using resources from the Prize to improve virtual reality systems her company developed to help patients cope with anxiety and pain by using self-management tools.

While the C3 Prize has proven to be an incredibly successful endeavor, it has also taught me a few important lessons about how we can better identify and support innovative ideas.

Lesson 1: Innovation requires stakeholder collaboration

When we started the C3 Prize, we anticipated good ideas from technology gurus and healthcare professionals—the people who are typically the closest to the frontlines of patient care.

And while these stakeholders are important to the C3 Prize, we know that patients interact with countless people during and after their treatment journey—from dispatchers to dieticians, therapists and more—who are equally critical to identifying gaps in care and finding solutions. Oftentimes, innovation occurs at the intersections of where the patient meets these stakeholders along their journey. That’s why this year, we’re looking for a wide range of applicants from any industry and any connection to cancer with ideas that can improve communication and collaboration among these stakeholders.   

Lesson 2: Innovation comes in all shapes and sizes

While previous winners of the C3 Prize came to us with fully-developed ideas or projects, we’ve learned through the submissions process that innovation comes in all shapes and sizes.

We’re not just looking for complex solutions. We’re open to any idea that may have an impact, even and especially if it’s simple—such as educational tools or programs, technology and beyond. In addition to awarding up to $200,000 in total funds to fully-developed ideas that are feasible to implement in the near-term, we are also looking for an idea that is emerging—one that has high potential to make an impact for patients and caregivers but needs additional work and cultivation before becoming a reality.

Lesson 3: To sustain innovation, we must do more

This leads me to my third lesson. The C3 Prize does not end when we announce our finalists. Rather, our mission is to ensure that our winners sustain the momentum of their platforms and achieve their goals.

To do this, we are increasing our total funds to $200,000 and will also be providing our four winners with support, mentorship and resources to help them bring their ideas to life.


Calling for entries for the 2019 C3 Prize

With the C3 Prize, our goal is to inspire ideas beyond medicine that could improve cancer care for people like my father. I encourage anyone with a promising idea to submit in one of the following three submission categories:

  • Cancer Care Journey: Ideas to help improve the patient experience, ease decision-making, and navigate everyday care.

  • Cancer Health Disparities: Ideas to reduce the unequal burden of cancer care, with a focus on tools and resources that reach underserved populations in the U.S. and abroad.

  • Cancer Survivorship: Ideas to address survivorship challenges and concerns.

Anyone interested in applying should visit Applications for this year’s C3 Prize close on July 15.

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