The endowment of two new chairs in oncology at Mass General underscores the importance of charitable giving to cancer research as public funding declines

At a time when charitable giving is playing an increasingly pivotal role in cancer research, Massachusetts General Hospital recently honored two physicians as inaugural recipients of endowed chairs in oncology. Gad Getz, PhD, director of Bioinformatics at the Mass General Cancer Center and the Department of Pathology, is the first recipient of the Paul C. Zamecnik, MD, Chair in Oncology, while Noopur Raje, MD, director of the Center of Multiple Myeloma, will serve as the first incumbent of the Rita M. Kelley, MD, Chair in Oncology.

The generous endowment of these chairs by an anonymous donor provides an enduring resource for the Cancer Center at a time when public funding for research in cancer and other fields is increasingly limited. Such opportunities allow the exceptional team of physician-scientists at MGH to make discoveries about new genes and pathways involved in different tumor types, and to pursue advanced therapies that will improve patient care and treatment.

“This is a phenomenal time of creativity and discovery in cancer research,” said Daniel Haber, MD, director of the Mass General Cancer Center.  “We want our faculty to carve out new areas of investigation and blaze new trails that will lead to better diagnosis and treatment for patients with cancer.”

Using Statistics to Identify Mutations

That quest is especially apparent in computational biology, the area of cancer research led by Dr. Getz, recipient of the Zamecnik Chair.  Dr. Getz is an internationally acclaimed leader in cancer genome analysis and the developer of computational tools that analyze expression of miRNAs across cancer.  At MGH, Dr. Getz leads a collaborative effort within the Mass General Cancer Center and MGH Pathology to advance the development of statistical methods to identify mutations in genes involved in tumor formation, and in treatment sensitivity and resistance.  During more than 50 years at MGH, Dr. Paul C. Zamecnik, the chair’s namesake, made several fundamental contributions related to the translation of DNA into protein molecules, serving as the discoverer of tRNA and a pioneer in antisense RNA technologies.

Dr. Raje
Gad Getz (center), PhD, director of Bioinformatics at the Mass General Cancer Center and Department of Pathology, is the first recipient of the Paul C. Zamecnick, MD, Chair in Oncology.

Dr. Raje, the renowned cancer researcher and physician recently honored with the Kelley Chair, is responsible for essential advances in the development of promising new therapies for multiple myeloma. As the director of the Center for Multiple Myeloma at the Mass General Cancer Center, Dr. Raje focuses her cancer research on locating cellular signaling pathways that allow for the survival and proliferation of myeloma cells in the bone environment.  Her aim is to develop new targeted therapies that may result in improved therapeutic outcomes for myeloma patients.

During her 38 year tenure at MGH, Dr. Rita M. Kelley, for whom the chair is named, established herself as an internationally recognized cancer specialist dedicated to patient care and clinical excellence.  She focused her groundbreaking cancer research on the use of chemotherapy in the treatment of breast cancer and hormonal therapy in the treatment of endometrial cancers.

To learn more about how you can make a charitable gift  to support such cancer research  or establish an endowed chair to support a physician or scientist, please contact us.