My Next Path in Innovation: Cancer Care

By August 1, 2016 In the News


What separates a great idea from a good one?

People come up with good ideas every day, but a great idea requires some execution. You’ve got to be able to implement your idea, bring it to fruition and move the needle to make a good idea GREAT.

Many of you are familiar with my story. My family came to Canada from Croatia when I was eight. Unfamiliar with the culture and with no money in our pockets, the odds were stacked against us. I was bullied in school for being different. But my mom was there. She would comfort me and she demonstrated a level of courage I couldn’t really comprehend at the time. I wouldn’t be who I am without her, so when she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and needed to lean on me, I committed each day to give back a fraction of the love and support she showed me.  

robert and parents

It wasn’t easy. The challenges she faced as a patient with cancer and those that I faced as a caregiver, opened my eyes to a world that not enough people talk about. It’s a world where resources and tools to make the days living with disease more manageable are still needed.  My mother lost her fight with cancer in 2006. Since then, I have worked to honor her memory both privately and publicly. So when Astellas asked me if I would be interested in partnering with them on the C3 Prize, an innovation challenge to change cancer care in ways beyond medicine and treatments, I jumped at it. 

The C3 Prize was developed to tap into the experiences and knowledge of those affected by cancer. The goal is to identify new, non-treatment based ideas and solutions that may make a difference in the lives of patients with cancer, their loved ones, and those who care for them. Maybe someone has an idea for a new smartphone app or patient-to-patient support network…  Like me, those who have experience with cancer know the daily challenges faced best. I can’t wait to see what innovative ideas are brought forward.

Five C3 Prize finalists will be flown out to the Stanford Medicine X conference to pitch their idea in front of a panel of judges (including myself) on September 17th. 

From there, three C3 Prize winners will be awarded a total of $100,000 in grants from Astellas, along with a one-year membership to MATTER, a healthcare technology incubator.

Here’s how to apply:

  • Visit the official C3 Prize website at
  • Complete the online application form; describe the problem in cancer care you want to solve, your solution and how the C3 Prize can help bring it to life.
  • Include an original video describing your idea. It can be a simple video taken on your smartphone.
  • All applications must be submitted by August 8, 2016, at 11:59 p.m. (CT).

Need help refining an idea? Try focusing on innovative tools, methods, or processes to:

  • Help guide cancer patients and loved ones through the healthcare system and to reduce the burden of decision making
  • Help patients living with cancer be more successful in adhering to a treatment plan
  • Help patients living with cancer and caregivers understand how care is networked, coordinated, and delivered
  • Help support patients cope as they live longer with and beyond cancer

By 2030, the global cancer burden is expected to grow to 22.2 million cancer cases.i In an era where cancer treatment is the first thought, we can’t be caught standing still on the actual wellbeing of the patient and their loved ones.

I can’t wait to see what you come up with!

Remember: what separates a good idea from a great one is the ability to execute.

Let’s take action to change cancer care together.

To your success,


i Bray F, Jemal A, Grey N, Ferlay J, Forman D. Global cancer transitions according to the Human Development Index (2008-2030): a population based study. Lancet Oncol. 2012;13: 790-801.