Christina Applegate in telethon for cancer research

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Cancer survivors Christina Applegate, Patrick Swayze, Sheryl Crowe, cyclist Lance Armstrong and dozens of other celebrities “stood up” to battle the disease in a charity television fund-raiser on Friday.

Christina Applegate arrives at the 14th annual Screen Actors Guild Awards in Los Angeles January 27, 2008. REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni

In a rare collaboration across three rival U.S. television networks -- ABC, CBS and NBC -- Hollywood stars came together to appeal for millions of dollars to speed up research and send cancer to the history books.

Many of those taking part had lost relations to cancer or had the disease themselves. Applegate, 36, star of TV comedy “Samantha Who?” recently had a double mastectomy. Swayze, 56, best known for his role in the movie “Dirty Dancing”, was diagnosed earlier this year with pancreatic cancer.

“Tonight is a historic collaboration of three networks and the cancer community,” said former “Friends” star Jennifer Aniston.

“We are all here tonight because we believe we can make our dream of curing cancer come true, because in our world, the boy gets the girl, the hero defeats the villain and cancer is no more,” she said.

One person every minute in America dies of cancer, according to CBS News anchor Katie Couric, whose husband died of colon cancer.

The one-hour, commercial free “Stand Up To Cancer” special highlighted advances in research in gene therapy and promising alternatives to debilitating chemotherapy and radiation treatment.

It also promoted early detection programs, including a short “Simpsons” cartoon about Homer Simpson having a colonoscopy.

Singers Miley Cyrus, Mariah Carey, Carrie Underwood, Rihanna, Fergie and Leona Lewis performed a new charity single “Just Stand Up”, whose proceeds will go to the cause.

Viewers heard the stories of dozens of Americans with cancer, as well as video-taped pledges from presidential contenders John McCain and Barack Obama to work to beat the disease.

Celebrities including Ellen DeGeneres, Sharon Osbourne and Jack Black manned phone banks taking calls and donations from viewers around the nation.

The organizers, who have formed the Web site (, have not said how much money they hope the telecast will raise.

Only rarely do major U.S. networks agree to broadcast programs simultaneously during the lucrative prime time evening hours. One of the exceptions was a celebrity fund-raiser for the victims of the September 11, 2001, attacks, which was shown across 31 cable and broadcast networks.