Indiana Daily Student

IU Simon Cancer Center receives $15 million

The Vera Bradley Foundation for Breast Cancer has pledged $15 million to support breast cancer research at the Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center.

The pledge, announced last Thursday, adds to the $20 million already donated and will bring the total amount donated by Vera Bradley to $35 million.

“This is the single largest philanthropic gift ever given to the program,” Catherine Hill, executive director of the Vera Bradley Foundation for Breast Cancer, said. “As a result, they built out a team that is now recognized by the National Cancer Institute as one of the strongest breast cancer research programs in the country.”

The gift will help fund the Vera Bradley Foundation for Breast Cancer Research Laboratories, a renowned research program.

Co-leader of the Breast Cancer Program, Harikrishna Nakshatri, said  the organization is full of notable people in the world of medicine.

“Several of our members serve in various national and international committees, including National Institutes of Health and Susan G. Komen, and are editors of scientific journals,” Nakshatri said.

The Vera Bradley Foundation for Breast Cancer Research Laboratories will use the funds to search for gene alterations that drive specific subtypes of breast cancer, according to the press release. They will also look for effective drugs to work toward the goal of improving cure rates and quality of life.

“The breast cancer program focuses on understanding the biology of breast cancer and translating that understanding into improvements in prevention, screening and treatment,” said Dr. Kathy Miller, associate professor and co-leader of the Breast Cancer Program at the Simon Center. “With the support of Vera Bradley, we have launched our precision therapeutics initiative.”

Miller said the first clinical trial will use state-of-the-art genetic sequencing to identify therapy for the highest risk patients, for whom the best currently available therapy has failed.

The trial will be available at sites around the country and will begin enrolling patients in the next few months.

The pledge will also establish the Vera Bradley Foundation Scholars Program as one integral in training the next generation of scientists working with breast cancer.

According to the press release, as a result of support from the Vera Bradley Foundation for Breast Cancer, the number of IU researchers focused on breast cancer has grown to 38, up from six in 1999.

“The talent that they’ve recruited has come from our funding,” Hill said.

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