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You are here: Home Winter Spring 2011 Features The campaign is already making a difference

The campaign is already making a difference

Millions of campaign dollars are being used to develop the leaders of tomorrow and create hope with groundbreaking research.

In 1997, the General Assembly enacted the Postsecondary Education Improvement Act, mandating a public agenda for our universities to improve our quality of life and to enhance economic opportunity for the people of Kentucky. This legislation also articulated the expectation that UofL become a “premier nationally recognized metropolitan research university.” This mandate will not be funded by the Commonwealth and tuition dollars cannot cover the cost; therefore, generous benefactors have already made significant contributions to ensure a strong start for Charting Our Course. Over the next several issues of this publication, we will be highlighting donations – large and small – and how they are making a difference in classrooms and laboratories, in dorm rooms and libraries, on campus and around the globe.

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Established 31 years ago with a $12 million gift from the James Graham Brown Foundation and the city, the Cancer Center that bears the name of one of Louisville’s leading philanthropists has enjoyed remarkable growth, particularly in the last decade.

“In 1980, the belief was that our citizens deserved world-class cancer treatment right here at home. We hold fast to the original mission of improving cancer care locally, while becoming a nationally renowned center,” says UofL President Ramsey. “With the unwavering support of the Brown Foundation, we’ve been able to recruit and retain phenomenal scientists and physicians engaged in leading-edge research and exceptional patient care.

“The philanthropy of the Brown Foundation has been transformational in every respect. It has made it possible for us to drive innovative cures for cancer and other disease that also will have a direct impact on the health and quality of life of people throughout the nation and the world,” he adds.

Since 1999, the Brown Cancer Center has pursued a strategic plan for the development of strong translational research, focused particularly on drug discovery and development. The center’s strategic plan and the recruitment of new faculty have placed heavy emphasis on investigational areas that will lead to new approaches to prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer.

This emphasis on translation is paying off: Brown Cancer Center scientists have several novel cancer treatments in early-phase clinical trials with more than a dozen others in preclinical stages. Importantly, there also has been a strong emphasis on prevention. A study on the use of berries to prevent lung cancer in high-risk individuals began in late 2006. The focus on patient-oriented research has created a collaborative environment in which both basic scientists and clinical investigators place a premium on work that has an impact on cancer prevention and treatment.

More than 90 new doctors and researchers have been recruited to the center. Their recent research breakthroughs include advances in adult stem cell biology; anti-cancer vaccines; nontoxic, targeted cancer therapies; and studies of cancer cell metabolism that provide a road map for future drug development.

“We’re proud to be the only center in the region using a patient-centered model of cancer care, with multidisciplinary teams of physicians working together to guide patients through diagnosis, treatment and recovery,” says Dr. Donald Miller, director of the center. “These programs have been extended into several communities throughout the state in an emphasis on providing outreach to underserved populations.”

“Over the past six years, critical support by the Brown Foundation, Kentucky Lung Cancer Research Fund and others has provided resources resulting in nationally recognized research programs with direct implications for cancer patients in Kentucky,” says Ramsey. “Research grants grew from less than $1 million in funding in 1999 to more than $50 million in 2006. Because of the specific needs of the state and region, tobacco-related cancers have been targeted and we’re exploring several very promising approaches to solving these challenges.”

Creating hope through research

With the assistance of a $3.15 million grant from the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, scientists from the James Graham Brown Cancer Center are engaged in research devoted to unlocking the potential of plant-made pharmaceuticals. The research and drug development program takes advantage of Kentucky’s natural products and agricultural industries, including tobacco.

In collaboration with the Owensboro Medical Health System, projects include:

  • development of a plant-based vaccine to prevent HIV
  • understanding how changes in the calciumsignaling pathway of stem cells impact the development and continued growth of lung cancer cells
  • determining whether the interaction of the heavy metal cadmium with tobacco-derived carcinogens contributes to the development of lung cancer in smokers.

“This is research happening in both Louisville and Owensboro that directly addresses diseases that impact both communities,” says Dr. Donald Miller, director of the center. “The outcomes of these projects have extraordinary potential to save lives in our backyard and also around the world. When we talk about the impact of the capital campaign and how its success can affect our daily lives, it doesn’t get more ‘street level’ than this.”

The Helmsley grant partnership’s goal is to create drugs for cancer prevention and treatment – at a drastically reduced cost. The grant and state matching funds will be used to create an endowed faculty position for a nationally recognized researcher in plant-based pharmaceuticals, as well as creating two new faculty positions to expand and enhance the research program.

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