UVA Cancer Center receives $5.75M to battle rare blood cancers

Anonymous gift to fund research, drug development, clinical trial access
Published: Aug. 4, 2022 at 11:03 AM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WHSV) - A gift of more than $5.75 million from anonymous donors will allow UVA Cancer Center to speed the development of new treatments for rare blood cancers and provide more patients with these cancers access to cutting-edge clinical trials.

UVA’s National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center will use the donation to establish a new Translational Orphan Blood Cancer Research Initiative Fund.

The initiative already has several projects in the pipeline that will help doctors better understand and treat rare blood cancers. These cancers are considered “orphans” or “neglected” because doctors and scientists often struggle to obtain funding for potentially life-saving research.

“Individually, these cancers affect relatively small numbers of people when compared with other cancers, but collectively they touch the lives of countless patients and families,” said K. Craig Kent, MD, chief executive officer of UVA Health and executive vice president for health affairs at the University of Virginia. “We are deeply grateful for this generous gift that will allow us to conduct important, groundbreaking cancer research and develop new treatments that will benefit patients around the world.”

The new fund will be overseen by Thomas P. Loughran Jr., MD, director of UVA Cancer Center, and Owen A. O’Connor, MD, PhD, an international authority on lymphoma.

The fund will support far-reaching efforts in the battle against rare blood cancers, including research, drug development and a special training fellowship in orphan blood cancers. In addition, the fund will allow UVA to help subsidize patients’ travel costs to participate in clinical trials, allowing more people to do so.

“This extraordinarily generous gift will accelerate innovative research in such rare blood diseases,” said Loughran, who discovered a rare form of blood cancer called large-granular lymphocytic (LGL) leukemia and is a leading expert in its treatment.

The donation will help support Loughran’s research into LGL leukemia with collaborator David J. Feith, PhD. They aim to identify new treatment targets and develop new approaches to improve outcomes for patients with the cancer and other malignancies in immune cells called T-cells.

O’Connor, meanwhile, will work with Enrica Marchi, MD, PhD, to develop innovative therapeutics for peripheral T-cell lymphoma and cutaneous T-cell lymphoma.

To keep up with the latest medical research news from UVA, click here.

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