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Tech mogul Sean Parker donates $250M to launch cancer research institute

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Silicon Valley tech billionaire Sean Parker announced he is donating $250 million to research that explores using your own immune system to fight cancer, which could help millions of people. (KGO-TV)

A Silicon Valley entrepreneur is making one of his biggest investments yet. Sean Parker is donating $250 million to cancer research.

Parker is known for his role in creating some of the biggest companies in the 21st century: Napster, Facebook and Spotify.

But now, the tech mogul is focusing on fighting cancer. Parker pledged $250 million on Wednesday to immunotherapy research, the single largest donation of its kind. "Immunotherapy is trying to mobilize the body's own immune system to take care of cancer cells," James Allison, M.D., said.

The announcement could affect hundreds of thousands, if not millions of future cancer patients, even though most of them, or us may not yet know it it or need it. "Patients and their families battling cancer don't have time for bureaucracy to sort itself out. They have the right to be impatient. We need to make progress for faster for their sake," Parker said.

Melissa Loerch of San Francisco endured her own up-close encounter with it after a breast cancer diagnosis in 2012. She lost her hair, but it could have been worse.

Researchers hope for better results from immunotherapy. Cancer survival rates have remained fairly flat in the past 20 years.

Former President Jimmy Carter received immunotherapy treatment and last December he announced he was cancer-free.

But scientists are quick to point out they're still figuring out why some people respond better than others.

Parker hopes more patients will be able to access the treatment much sooner rather than wait as a last resort.

For now, the biggest hurdle has been to combine competing cancer research centers and lead scientists to all work together at the Parker Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy, based here in San Francisco.

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