Foundation News Archive

Focus on the Cancer Frontier Fund

  • May 9, 2010
  • Number of views: 780


You can help to speed up the pace of turning discoveries into new tests, imaging technologies, drugs, vaccines or other therapies to help every patient survive his or her cancer…or to stop cancer before it starts.

You can help to change cancer care around the world. And you can do it all right here in St. Louis by giving to the Cancer Frontier Fund.

Donors have given more than $1.44 million to the Cancer Frontier Fund since the Barnes-Jewish Hospital Foundation launched the initiative in 2009. Every Cancer Frontier Fund dollar will be invested in innovative cancer research at the Alvin J. Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine.

With its genetic sequencing capability, imaging technology and clinical research environment, the Siteman Cancer Center offers a unique capacity for discovery that is leading the way with more than $165 million in annual cancer research and related training grants. But as resources shrink, federal and private research funders have been less likely to support novel projects that may lead to the next giant breakthrough.

“When you consider that more than $100 billion has been spent on cancer research over the last 40 years with only a small change in the overall cancer death rate, I would say that the time is now to shift our resources to support transformative research,” says Julia Ruvelson, vice president of the Barnes-Jewish Hospital Foundation. “The Cancer Frontier Fund is designed to support the big new ideas needed to win the war against cancer. With your gifts to the Cancer Frontier Fund, the Siteman Cancer Center will emerge as the leader among leaders, with unprecedented opportunities to save countless lives.”

Siteman’s work to uncover the genetic and molecular basis of cancer is already advancing “personalized medicine.” In this new medical frontier, more accurate diagnoses are combined with a growing body of data on how an individual’s genetic makeup affects their response to treatment.  We can now direct targeted therapies and new treatments to give patients more options, better outcomes or even the chance to prevent the disease entirely. 

“The Cancer Frontier Fund gives us the flexibility to study the newest ideas in areas with the greatest promise for innovation and impact, including genomics, imaging and community health so that we can utilize tomorrow’s technologies on patient care today,” says Timothy J. Eberlein, MD, Siteman Cancer Center director. “Our partnership with donors to the Cancer Frontier Fund will help to maximize the impact that our world-class researchers will be able to make on the care of our patients.”

To make a gift to the Cancer Frontier Fund, please call Julia Ruvelson at 314-286-0580, e-mail or visit


John DiPersio, MD, and Linda Eissenberg, PhD: Funding for a groundbreaking clinical trial that will be the first to combine gene therapy for leukemia with PET scanning to improve outcomes. They aim to create a non-invasive diagnostic test for predicting which patients who receive genetically modified human T cells for fighting cancer will develop deadly graft-versus-host disease (caused by rejection of the newly transplanted cells) following treatment, and to establish criteria for when to administer a drug that will safely eliminate the T cells before graft-versus-host disease takes hold. Eissenberg also received general funding for her work with Dr. DiPersio in other gene therapy trials.

Gerald Linette, MD, PhD, and Beatriz Carreno, PhD: Funding for a study to generate a more potent vaccine for patients with melanoma. In early results, it appears that half of the metastatic melanoma patients in the study are responding completely to the vaccine.

Craig Lockhart, MD: Funding to continue a study of the impact of the thymidylate synthase gene on patients with advanced stomach and esophageal junction tumors to predict their response before beginning chemotherapy.  In preliminary results, Dr. Lockhart – a Washington University  medical oncologist who also leads Siteman’s Developmental Therapeutics Program – and his colleagues have more than doubled the treatment response rate by testing for the gene prior to treatment. Dr. Lockhart also received general funding for his work supervising individuals who help to expedite the development of new treatments through clinical trials.

Will Gillanders, MD: Funding for a phase I clinical trial of an innovative and highly effective breast cancer vaccine developed by Dr. Gillanders and his colleagues. The vaccine targets mammaglobin-A, a gene that is predominantly observed in breast cancers.  The Phase I trial is the first step of translating their findings into treatment.  If the vaccine is found to produce minimal side affects, the trial will be expanded to a larger number of patients.

Robert Pufahl Jr., PhD: General funding for Pufahl, a medical chemist who studies compounds (substances consisting of two or more chemical elements) that are likely to impact treatment of various types of cancer, an area that is receiving new emphasis at Siteman. His involvement is critical to discovering compounds for the development of innovative drugs that are more targeted and less toxic.

Data management for phase I and pilot studies in developmental therapeutics: All data from these innovative clinical trials are collected and reviewed by Siteman’s Data Safety and Monitoring Committee, the Food and Drug Administration and other regulatory agencies, any of which can audit data at their discretion. The meticulous level of care needed to ensure data accuracy and confidentiality requires a tremendous amount of resources.

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