“My colleagues and I are honored to share in the Ivy Foundation’s mission, and we’re very excited about the advances in treatment options that may come out of this project.”
— Ronald DePinho, MD
After enjoying long and distinguished careers in investment and financial planning, Ben and Catherine Ivy hoped to leverage their success and business acumen in giving back to philanthropic causes. The only question was where to focus their efforts. Sadly, the answer became obvious when Ben was diagnosed with an incurable form of brain cancer called glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) in August 2005. In the months that followed, debilitating symptoms of this terrible disease greatly reduced his quality of life before he passed away in November of that year. Determined to build on the values and vision she and her husband shared, Catherine established the country’s largest privately funded foundation dedicated to improving the survival and quality of life for people with brain tumors. The Ben and Catherine Ivy Foundation strives to achieve that goal by funding “patient-focused research”—interdisciplinary, collaborative investigations in which tissue samples and clinical data from glioma patients fuel bi-directional efforts between the laboratory and the clinic to develop diagnostics and treatments tailored to the varying needs of individual patients. The Ivy Foundation recently furthered this mission by awarding Ronald DePinho, MD, director of Dana-Farber’s Belfer Institute for Applied Cancer Science, nearly $3 million for a new GBM research project.
Standing out from the pack
Last year, the Ivy Foundation challenged scientists worldwide to propose strategies for optimizing the development of new therapies for adults with GBM. At the foundation’s request, an independent group of researchers and clinicians from academia, government, and industry vetted more than 100 proposals before rating DePinho’s plan as one of the most promising.
“As a foundation, we fund research that has the potential for ‘high reward,” as defined by impact on clinical care for patients with brain tumors,” said Ivy Foundation Executive Director Rob Tufel. “This year’s research awards represent a new strategy in the fight against brain tumors.” DePinho’s project addresses the enormous complexity of brain tumors in devising new treatment approaches. Previous work revealed that tumors from different patients can be categorized into distinct subtypes based on specific genetic and molecular abnormalities lurking in the tumor tissue. DePinho and his Dana- Farber colleagues, Lynda Chin, MD, of Medical Oncology, and William Hahn, MD, PhD, deputy chief scientific officer and co-director of Dana-Farber’s Center for Cancer Genome Discovery, plan to define which of these anomalies are most important in driving malignant growth in specific GBM subtypes. Based on this information, the researchers will work with scientists throughout the Institute to identify and test specific drug combinations predicted to work best against each tumor subtype. “This gift will allow a multi-disciplinary team of investigators with an exceptional range of expertise to join forces in pursuit of new combination therapies for brain tumors,” said DePinho. “My colleagues and I are honored to share in the Ivy Foundation’s mission, and we’re very excited about the advances in treatment options that may come out of this project.”