A campaign to raise money for cancer research that culminated in a telethon airing simultaneously on all three major U.S. networks brought in more than $100 million for the cause, telethon organizers announced today.
The funds will be used for new research and the development of experimental therapies for cancer patients, according to the Entertainment Industry Foundation, the nonprofit charity behind the event.
The figure included money raised from viewers since the campaign officially began, on May 28, 2008.
Cancer is the second leading cause of death in the country after heart disease, and The American Cancer Society predicts that 1,437,180 new cancer cases will be diagnosed this year alone.
Broadcast simultaneously for one prime-time, commercial-free hour Friday evening on ABC, CBS and NBC, the telethon featured appearances by celebrities including Jack Black, Jennifer Aniston, Halle Berry and Keanu Reeves -- not to mention presidential nominees John McCain and Barack Obama.
The telethon, which was broadcast from Los Angeles, represented an unprecedented coordination among the networks and reached an estimated 170 countries and territories.
"The statistics are staggering," said Charles Gibson, anchor of ABC News's "World News Tonight with Charles Gibson," when the campaign was launched in May. "Cancer claims one person every minute every day in the United States."
"Every year in this country, more than half a million people die from this disease," said Gibson, who took over the evening newscast after ABC News' Peter Jennings lost his battle with lung cancer in August 2005. "Worldwide, cancer kills more than six million people annually."
The telethon also featured musical segments by performers including James Taylor, Sheryl Crow, Josh Groban and Monica Mancini. Serving as co-emcees, rival network news anchors Gibson, Katie Couric of CBS and Brian Williams of NBC discussed advances in cancer research.
And television comedy star Brad Garrett underwent an on-the-air prostate exam.
Part of the impetus behind "Stand Up To Cancer" was the belief that it is the lack of funding – not the scientific knowledge – that is preventing the advancement of cancer treatment and prevention.
"On behalf of the Stand Up To Cancer leadership team, we are tremendously grateful to everyone who contributed to make this historic event a success," said Lisa Paulsen, president of the Entertainment Industry Foundation. "This money will go directly to funding the research programs necessary to defeat this insidious disease."
Gibson said he hoped the partnership between the networks would encourage more people to seek out answers to their questions and concerns about cancer.
"This is a kind of noble experiment," Gibson said of the project. "In the long run there's a public awareness responsibility here that may be more important than the money."