The University of California, San Francisco has announced gifts totaling $35 million from Marc and Lynne Benioff in support of research focused on the causes of and new treatment options for prostate cancer.
Among other things, the UCSF Benioff Initiative for Prostate Cancer Research will recruit new research faculty, fund high-risk high-reward projects, develop cutting-edge resources for investigators, and build teams of research fellows mentored by UCSF faculty members. Prostate cancer is the most commonly diagnosed and second-deadliest cancer among men in the United States, yet its underlying causes and the factors driving the most aggressive cases are poorly understood. According to Felix Feng, a professor of radiation oncology, urology, and medicine who will serve as the initiative's executive director, personalized therapies that target specific genes, mutations, and other molecular drivers underlying each patient's cancer — options that are available for other common forms of cancer — have yet to be developed for prostate cancer.
The Benioffs' gift is focused on catalyzing the kind of collaborative research needed to transform the field, beginning with research on the basic biology and genetics of the disease. Within five years, the researchers hope to identify new molecular drivers of aggressive prostate cancer, understand why they lead to specific cancer features, and develop therapeutic approaches targeting those drivers, with the goal of eventually conducting clinical trials that benefit patients who don't respond to existing treatment regimens.
The Benioffs have previously supported prostate cancer research and care in the UCSF Department of Urology, funding the development of new diagnostic tools, innovative therapeutic approaches, and the recruitment of leading physician-scientists. And since 2005, they have committed more than $400 million to UCSF, including $100 million each in 2010 and 2014 in support of UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital and UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital Oakland, $50 million for the hospitals' Preterm Birth Initiative, $25 million to launch the UCSF Benioff Center for Microbiome Medicine, and $30 million in support of research focused on the causes of and solutions to homelessness.
"Prostate cancer has devastated too many families around the world, including our own," said the couple, who signed the Giving Pledge in 2016. "With this gift, we are honoring the memory of Marc's father and all of those who have been lost to prostate cancer by working with the leading experts at UCSF to spare other families the pain of this terrible disease."