The Power of Giving
Tisch Family Adds $4M to Initial $10 Million Gift to Fund Brain Tumor Research
The family of Preston Robert Tisch continued its commitment to the Duke Comprehensive Cancer Center and The Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center at Duke with an additional $4million gift. This is the second multi-million dollar gift from the Tisch family, who provided a donation of $10 million in 2005 to honor him. Tisch, who was chairman of Loews Corporation and co-owner of the New York Giants, was treated for a brain tumor at Duke. He passed away in late 2005.
The $10 million donation was the single largest gift ever received by the Duke Comprehensive Cancer Center. In recognition of the gift, the Brain Tumor Center at Duke was renamed The Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center at Duke.
“The ongoing support from the Tisch family has been absolutely essential in our efforts to continue our search for a cure for this devastating disease,” says Darell Bigner, MD, PhD, Director of The Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center. “There is a relatively small market for brain tumor drugs, so many pharmaceutical companies are not interested in supporting the development of treatments for the disease unless they know the treatments are effective. Similarly, it’s difficult to obtain federal funding to support our research until we have shown new therapies are effective. At Duke, we have, and continue to make great progress because of support for innovative research from the Tisch family and so many others.”
A portion of the initial $10 million gift was used by Duke researcher John Sampson, MD, PhD, to support his work developing a vaccine which has proven initially successful at staving off recurrence of glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) tumors and has more than doubled survival in GBM patients compared to historic controls. A phase III clinical trial of the vaccine is now open at more than 20 sites nationwide, led by Sampson.
Duke researchers also used Tisch funds to support preclinical research to study the drug Avastin for use in brain tumor patients. Avastin has already been proven successful in treating colon cancer. In a Duke-led multi-institutional clinical trial, researchers James Vredenburgh, MD, and Henry Friedman, MD, showed that Avastin is also effective for the treatment of brain tumors. In May 2009, Avastin was approved by the FDA for the treatment of glioblastoma. It is the first new treatment approved for the treatment of glioblastoma in more than a decade.
In addition, Duke has used Tisch funds to recruit outstanding young researchers like Chay Kuo, MD, PhD. Kuo was honored this year with numerous awards including the Director’s New Innovator Award from the National Institutes of Health and the Distinguished Scientist Award from the Sontag Foundation for his research of stem cells and their role in brain tumors.
The Tisch family’s most recent $4 million donation will be equally divided between clinical and laboratory research initiatives focusing on new treatments for brain tumors.
Duke plans to invest a portion of this most recent gift in genomics research aimed at developing individualized approaches to treating brain tumors using a patient’s genomic signatures. Duke is a world leader in using genomic profiling to administer personalized care to patients and is already conducting clinical trials for patients with breast, lung, and prostate cancers using this innovative approach to treatment.
The memory of Preston Robert Tisch lives on through The Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center at Duke, which was named in his honor.
Private philanthropy makes all the difference in our work. Some do wonder, why does a world leader such as The Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center at Duke need so much private funding? In short, private donations allow us to perform research and develop new treatments that otherwise simply would never happen.
Public research funds are distributed based on the incidence of a given disease. Because brain cancer causes just two percent of all cancer deaths each year, it is officially classified as an “orphan disease” – a term that sums up its place in the eyes of federal funding agents.
The federal government has acknowledged our Center as an unsurpassed leader. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded our program numerous research grants. Still, funding from public agencies covers only a portion of our costs. To be eligible for NIH grants, we must first collect as much as one-third of a project’s research data – crucial start-up work that must be sponsored by private funds.
Corporate sources are also limited. There are more than 120 identified types of brain malignancies, each with different chemical profiles and behaviors. Developing an effective new drug comes at a very high price. The market for such narrowly targeted drugs is simply too small for pharmaceutical companies to make big investments in clinical investigation.