UCSF Receives $150 Million Pledge for Cancer Center

June 21, 2007
News Office: Kristen Bole (415) 502-6397

UCSF has received a $150 million pledge to support clinical and research programs of the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center. It is the largest philanthropic commitment from an individual ever received by the University and was given anonymously.

Already recognized for its research excellence and regarded as one of the most comprehensive programs in the nation, the UCSF Cancer Center will use the gift to strengthen five major components of its programs.

The gift will support UCSF's efforts to become a world leader in cancer care and the West Coast hub for experimental therapies in treating cancer patients; develop a world-class database system to support individualized therapies of the future; enhance the Center's ability to recruit top-league scientific leaders; improve patient care and support services; and further strengthen the Center's translation of basic research into clinical care.

"This commitment is a tribute to both the donor's inspirational vision and the excellence already present at UCSF," said UCSF Chancellor J. Michael Bishop. "The donor's immense generosity will serve as a potent catalyst for programs and research that will benefit cancer patients throughout the world."

Cancer is the second leading cause of death in America, exceeded only by heart disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Every year, more than 1 million Americans are diagnosed with some form of the disease. The National Cancer Institute estimates that 10.5 million Americans -- roughly one in 29 -- are now living with a previous diagnosis of cancer.

"The magnitude of this gift reflects the enormity of need for funding in both cancer research and the translation of that research into successful therapies for every patient," said UCSF Cancer Center Director Frank McCormick. "This is a bold first step in launching UCSF to the forefront of the search for the cures of the future."

The UCSF Cancer Center was designated as a Comprehensive Cancer Center by the National Cancer Institute in 1999 in recognition of the highest level of excellence in both its scientific research and its ability to integrate diverse research approaches to focus on the problem of cancer and improve patient outcomes.

The Center ranks first in California and sixth nationwide in National Cancer Institute research grants and is home to pioneers in research into genetic, cellular and immune system causes and responses to cancer.

Among its many subspecialties, the Center includes flagship programs in breast and prostate cancer and the largest brain tumor program in the nation, which offers state-of-the-art research and treatment for both children and adults. As a Comprehensive Cancer Center, it also maintains programs that focus on cancer prevention, control, and population sciences.

The current Center builds on a UCSF tradition of scientific leadership that began in 1948, when it established the nation's first Cancer Research Institute. Since then, the research enterprise has flourished. In the 1970s, UCSF researcher J. Michael Bishop, now Chancellor, and colleague Harold Varmus discovered that cancer is caused by normal genes gone awry. This revelation, which led to Bishop and Varmus receiving the 1989 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, transformed the field of cancer research and provided the underpinnings for new approaches to the detection and treatment of cancer.

"The disease is daunting, to be sure," McCormick said. "To conquer cancer, we need the best in leadership, scientists and clinicians, with the resources and environment to support them. We want to change life for future generations."

The new gift will augment programs throughout the Center. The following five areas are targeted as priorities:

Experimental therapies: The gift will enable the Cancer Center to develop the infrastructure for a comprehensive program in experimental therapies. An essential component of clinical research, this program involves development of new drugs to treat cancer and enables patients to participate in a wide range of clinical trials for these therapies. McCormick said this type of program requires significant coordination with pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, along with extensive management of the ongoing clinical results, making it difficult to achieve at most centers.

Database development: New funding will enhance the Center’s bioinformatics and database systems, enabling it to develop a world-class genetic database for cancer patients to help identify which patients respond best to specific therapies and track their recovery. This information, in turn, will enable the Center to forge closer ties with the biopharmaceutical companies that are developing these treatments.

Patient care and support services: The gift will expand upon the Center’s renowned Ida and Joseph Friend Cancer Resource Center, which serves as a library and support center that connects patients, family members and the public to a multimedia library, databases and research support. The funds also will enhance programs in outpatient symptom management and survivorship, for which cancer centers often struggle to find funding, McCormick said. This additional focus will launch UCSF into the forefront of such care nationwide.

Translational research: During the coming years, the Center expects to see dramatic advances in technology that are likely to revolutionize early detection of cancer, determination of individual risk, tumor imaging and treatment, according to McCormick. Support in this area will enable UCSF to translate the latest innovations into patient protocols and therapies and move rapidly as new technologies develop. UCSF’s commitment to translational research was recognized by the National Institutes of Health in October 2006, when the campus became one of seven universities to receive NIH funding for a Clinical and Translational Science Institute to support innovative approaches in the field.

UCSF's largest previous philanthropic commitments, other than land, were two unrelated $50 million commitments from Atlantic Philanthropies and Genentech, Inc. Both of those were designated for projects at the UCSF Mission Bay campus.

UCSF is a leading university that advances health worldwide by conducting advanced biomedical research, educating graduate students in the life sciences and health professions, and providing complex patient care.

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