Record $15 million gift to support cancer research, care
Joel Kaplan, dean of the School of Medicine, said the gift will dramatically enhance efforts to serve Kentuckians.
University officials announced Jan. 28 the largest single gift in school history - a $15 million donation from the James Graham Brown Foundation to support cancer research and care at UofL.
At least $5 million of the gift will be matched by money from the state's Research Challenge Trust Fund, more commonly called Bucks for Brains, bringing the total donation to at least $20 million, university president John Shumaker said.
"This is the second time that the Brown Foundation and Bucks for Brains have made a major impact on cancer research and care in Louisville," Shumaker noted.
"In 1999 the foundation matched state dollars to support the recruitment of Dr. Donald Miller as cancer center director."
The foundation also has funded two endowed professorships at UofL's James Graham Brown Cancer Center since Miller's arrival, and it paid for half of the center's $12 million construction tab more than two decades ago.
Of the $15 million gift announced in January, $1 million will be dedicated to establishing a new endowed oncology chair in conjunction with Our Highest Potential, a university partnership created to address issues affecting African-Americans.
The endowed chair will focus on the disproportionately high incidence of lung and prostate cancer among African-Americans, with a long-term goal of identifying more effective methods to reduce and treat cancer in minority populations.
"This is a very, very big day for this cancer center," Miller said during a news conference held to announce the donation.
"In our 25-year history, there have been a number of big days, and each time the Brown Foundation has stood to the plate and provided critical assistance."
Miller said the latest gift, which will support multiple program, faculty and facility needs at the Brown Cancer Center, "puts us over the top" in efforts to establish a federally recognized comprehensive cancer center at UofL.
There are 40 such National Cancer Institute-designated centers around the country, but none is closer than Nashville, Miller said.
The NCI recognition would mean dramatically increased prestige for the Brown Cancer Center, as well as the potential for more research support and clinical trials.
The designation is "recognized as the imprimatur of success in building a cancer center," Miller said, adding: "It will allow us to recruit the very best people here and build programs that bring jobs and better clinical care to the city."
The Brown Cancer Center already has experienced explosive growth under Miller's leadership.
In just more than two years, research grant funding has grown from $500,000 to $31.5 million, and 30 cancer research and clinical faculty have joined the university staff.
Among these new recruits are Andrew Lane, Ph.D., one of the world's leading structural biologists, and John Eaton, Ph.D., whom Miller described as a "stupendous cancer biologist."
The center's research agenda now is focused on structural biology, Miller explained. By studying the three-dimensional structures of molecules that play a role in cancer, researchers hope to develop entirely new therapies.
"We believe there will be a steady series of new drugs based on the genetics of cancer coming out of our laboratories that will be tested here in this city," Miller said. "It will no longer be necessary to get on an airplane to get the best cancer care available in the world.
"I couldn't be more pleased about the progress we've made and -- thanks to the Brown Foundation -- the progress we will soon make in becoming a nationally recognized force in cancer research and care."
Miller expects to attain the NCI recognition within five years, "but it will be necessary to continue to recruit world-class scientists to achieve this designation," he noted. "This gift will make a huge impact on allowing us to do that as quickly as possible."
Joel Kaplan, M.D., UofL's vice president for health affairs and dean of the medical school, said the Brown Foundation gift, coupled with a joint effort between the university and Norton Healthcare to establish a new cancer hospital, will dramatically enhance the university's efforts to serve Kentuckians.
"We have one of the highest incidences of cancer in the country here in Kentucky, and we're going to do everything we can to prevent it and ultimately treat it when necessary," Kaplan said.
"We're here to develop a world-class cancer center so that nobody in Louisville even has to think about going out of town to get the best diagnosis and the best treatment.
"Our dream, and something that we're going to bring to fruition very shortly, is the best in cancer care right here at the Brown Cancer Center and the University of Louisville medical center."