Gift advances cancer center’s research capabilities

Nykia Walker, PhD, postdoctoral fellow, and Marsha Rosner, PhD, Charles B. Huggins Professor in the Ben May Department of Cancer Research, University of Chicago.
Nykia Walker, PhD, postdoctoral fellow, and Marsha Rosner, PhD, Charles B. Huggins Professor in the Ben May Department of Cancer Research, University of Chicago.

The Cancer Research Foundation Breakthrough Board (formally known as the University of Chicago Cancer Research Foundation Women’s Board) has dedicated over 70 years to advocacy and philanthropy in support of cancer prevention, diagnostics, and treatment at UChicago Medicine. Their recent gift of $1.05 million will support the purchase of new technology critical for advancing the understanding of cellular changes contributing to cancer’s development.
The generosity of the Breakthrough Board enables our researchers to pursue high-risk, high-reward projects with the goal of improving outcomes for cancer patients. Past research supported by the Breakthrough Board helped launch the careers of many leading cancer investigators and positioned the University of Chicago Medicine Comprehensive Cancer Center for external and larger-scale grant funding. In the last six years the Breakthrough Board has raised over $8.5 million to advance cancer research and discovery, adding to the $21 million total raised since its inception.
Philanthropic support from the Breakthrough Board paves the way for groundbreaking discoveries in cancer science by advancing research that deepens and expands the understanding of cancer. Partnerships such as these allow our researchers to pursue revolutionary ideas, launch new lines of inquiry, and improve the lives of countless individuals.

Each patient’s cancer is unique, and one way to identify cancer’s traits and potential weaknesses is to study how cancer cells metabolize energy differently than healthy cells. This study of cancer metabolomics is a strategic focus of the Cancer Center and is supported by its core facility for metabolomics. The Breakthrough Board has committed to the purchase of a state-of-the-art mass spectrometer, an instrument used for identifying and measuring metabolites. With this information, researchers can identify patients at the highest risk for specific types of cancer, test treatment capabilities, and understand how to adjust treatment plans. Having such instrumentation readily available at the University will advance research and interdisciplinary collaborations aimed at enhancing therapeutics.

The Breakthrough Board has also committed to supporting teams pursuing translational research—research that seeks to translate scientific discoveries into new treatments— through pilot funding for future Translational Groups of Research Excellence. These diseased-based collaborative teams are composed of basic, translational, and clinical scientists focused on diseases that represent both the greatest cancer burden and the greatest opportunity for treatment success, such as pancreatic, breast, and head and neck cancers.

These are just a few examples of the numerous projects funded through the Breakthrough Board. Their partnership with UChicago Medicine highlights the wide range of ways supporting cancer science can have an immediate impact, from keeping up with the most recent technologies to fostering scientists who are the best in their respective fields as they pursue some of the most pressing questions in cancer.

Breakthrough Board President Elizabeth Luttig emphasizes the impact of philanthropic partnerships, “By providing seed funds to support outstanding researchers working on cutting-edge projects, we enable the critical first step of generating preliminary data that will open doors to future grants and funding sources. Unrestricted annual support from the Breakthrough Board accelerates research from concept to clinical trial.”
“We are grateful for the Cancer Research Foundation Breakthrough Board and their long history of support for UChicago Medicine. Their philanthropy has empowered our researchers to make huge strides in understanding cancer, enabling us to better diagnose, prevent, and treat disease,” said Kunle Odunsi, MD, PhD, director of the Cancer Center. “With their most recent gift, the Breakthrough Board is helping us build on this success by supporting projects with a high potential for innovation and impact.”

If you would like to learn more about how you can partner with the UChicago Medicine Comprehensive Cancer Center to support cancer research and discovery, contact Stephanie Dahl at

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