SoCal Lazarex: A New Approach to Cancer Funding

by Audrey Chai

The Lazarex Cancer Foundation focuses around a simple idea regarding cancer treatment: the size of someone’s checkbook should not determine the type of treatment they receive.

Dana Dornsife started the Lazarex Cancer Foundation after a close family member fell victim to pancreatic cancer.

The foundation provides resources for cancer patients including financial assistance, community education and outreach services to build a bridge to hope, dignity and life for patients and their families.

Last year, two current USC juniors, Joanna Liang and Lexi Riopelle, came up with the idea of founding USC’s very own chapter of Lazarex.

Riopelle and Liang were both interested in medicine and cancer research. After planning and a meeting with Lazarex executives and the foundation headquarters, they officially decided to create SoCal Lazarex.

This was USC’s very own chapter of the Lazarex Cancer Foundation and the first official chapter of the foundation to be established here in Southern California.

The mission and purpose of the Lazarex Foundation resonated with Liang and Riopelle, as the two wanted to spread awareness of the difficulties faced by cancer patients and their families during the treatment process.

Liang said, “The primary goal of SoCal Lazarex is to support the Lazarex Foundation by raising money to financially aid cancer patients going through clinical trials.”

Liang and Riopelle were also inspired by Dana Dornsife’s idea that since cancer does not discriminate, money should not be a discriminatory factor in cancer treatment.

SoCal Lazarex works to raise money to help cancer patients attend clinical trials, bringing hope and a chance for survival into patients’ lives.

So far, SoCal Lazarex has organized fundraising events on  campus such as Diddy Riese cookie sales and they have even bigger plans for the future.

These plans include volunteering at various Lazarex Foundation events throughout Southern California such as the Malibu International Marathon in addition to hosting more fundraising events on campus.

SoCal Lazarex is notable for the specificity of its cause.

Liang said, “There are numerous organizations that help raise money for cancer treatment or cancer research, but Lazarex’s mission is so specific in that it helps determine whether these patients can go to clinical trials or not.”

According to Liang, some patients have successfully passed the cancer stage and are now currently in remission, thanks to Lazarex.

“It is so great to be able to see the difference that we can make in these patients’ lives just by helping to finance their travels,” she said.

As for the future of SoCal Lazarex, besides continuing to raise money for their cause, the organization is hoping to spread awareness of the Lazarex Foundation to other schools throughout the Southern California area.

“It would be great to partner up with similar cancer organizations at other schools and bring awareness to the foundation and its core ideas,” said Liang.

SoCal Lazarex is also interested in bringing in guest speakers like graduate students or professors who can talk about their cancer research to help inspire students and also create opportunities for student involvement in cancer research.

Anyone who is interested in SoCal Lazarex is encouraged to reach out to the organization.  Liang encourages those who really believe in the values and mission of Lazarex to apply to become an official member in the spring.

Visit the SoCal Lazarex facebook page at

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