Director's Message: Large Gift to Support AYA Cancer Program

Dear Members of the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center community:

On Monday, June 30, 2014 at the Crawford Auto-Aviation Museum, Char and Chuck Fowler announced an incredible and forward-looking gift to the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center. They will provide $6.7M to establish the first adolescent and young adult cancer research program at an NCI-designated comprehensive cancer center. This gift will complement the Angie Fowler Adolescent and Young Adult Institute at University Hospitals (UH) Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital.

You may have seen the announcements from CWRU President Barbara R. Snyder and UH CEO Tom Zenty. I want to take a minute to provide you with the basis for this gift, its impact on the Case CCC, and why I think this is such a meaningful initiative.

I have noted a few themes in my observations about pediatric cancer research in NCI-designated cancer centers:

  1. Very few centers, other than St Jude's Children's Research Hospital, have pediatric programs, and certainly not because there are no questions to ask.
  2. A number of centers have established cancer care programs focused on AYA cancers, as has Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital with UH Seidman Cancer Center.  

Yet, the unanswered questions related to cancers in this age group are far more complex than the usual (and equally important) focus on psychosocial, cognitive and development issues, compliance and life changes, long-term survivorship, and familial impact on cancer risk, secondary cancers etc.

We have the opportunity with this support to focus on the unknown questions around the biology of cancers in this age group. Rather than simply characterizing, we can get to the heart of the unknown etiology of these cancers – be they genetic or epigenetic, in-utero, toxin and hormonal exposures, DNA repair defects, immune dysfunction, and the like.

The Fowlers' support will allow us to emphasize developing teams of investigators to ask specific questions, linking our researchers in pediatrics with those throughout the Center. We will recruit needed expertise and build towards large program grants.

We are in the lead on this initiative, and will need to define the scientific field as we go.  I predict that our good work will lead to increased recognition of this area nationally as an understudied area of cancer research.

I hope you share my interest and excitement regarding this development and share my thanks for the Fowler family for their foresight and leadership in this remarkable gift.

Stanton L. Gerson, MD
Director, Case Comprehensive Cancer Center


Read more about this gift
CWRU, UH announce collaborative fundraising initiative for Adolescent and Young Adult cancer