The Gray Foundation in Saratoga Springs, New York, has announced grants totaling $25 million in support of research into genetic mutations that raise the risk for breast, ovarian, prostate, and pancreatic cancers.
Grants of up to $5 million each were awarded to seven research teams to pursue new approaches to the early detection, diagnosis, and therapy of cancers related to BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene mutations. The teams receiving grants are led by Joan S. Brugge (Ludwig Center at Harvard, Harvard Medical School), Lewis C. Cantley (Sandra and Edward Meyer Cancer Center, Weill Cornell Medicine, and NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center), Leif W. Ellisen (Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center, Harvard Medical School), Charis Eng (Genomic Medicine Institute, Cleveland Clinic), Katherine Nathanson (Abramson Cancer Center, University of Pennsylvania), Patrick Sung (University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio), and Victor E. Velculescu (Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine).
"We know a lot when patients present cancer, we know what they have, what are the genetic changes that lead to the cancer," said Gray Foundation chief science advisor Chi Van Dang, who oversaw the selection process. "The question is what is lurking in the normal tissue that begins to look like cancer, and how our immune system reacts to these abnormal cells before they develop cancer. The aspirational goal would be to understand the process of cancer development early enough and then look at ways to intervene, hopefully eradicate, [and] prevent the cancer from even developing."
In 2012, Jonathan Gray, president and COO of private equity firm Blackstone Group, and his wife, Mindy, committed $25 million to establish the Basser Center for BRCA at Penn Medicine's Abramson Cancer Center; they gave another $21 million in 2017 to create an endowment for the center. According to Forbes, the latest grants boost the Grays' total lifetime giving to more than $175 million, including $100 million in support of BRCA research.
"This is more proactive investing than reactive,” Mindy Gray, whose sister died at the age of 44 from breast cancer, told Forbes. "We're going out and asking them to think outside the box."
"The progress being made in early detection and prevention of BRCA-related cancers is extraordinarily promising," said Jonathan Gray in a statement. "Our goal is to accelerate this work by supporting the leading researchers in the field."
(Photo credit: Gray Foundation)