April 23, 1999

Effort to raise $100 million to battle cancer launched

Effort to raise $100 million to battle cancer launched


The fund-raising campaign now under way will enable researchers like Neil Bhowmick, Agnes Gorska and Anna Chytil to continue the fight against cancer. (photo by Donna Jones Bailey)

Friends of Vanderbilt University and of the late businessman and philanthropist E. Bronson Ingram gathered Thursday night to "imagine a world without cancer" and kick off a campaign to raise $100 million to fight the disease that killed Ingram in 1995.

The event at the Renaissance Hotel also honored the Ingram family for their gift of $56 million to launch the fund-raising campaign, which will be led by Ingram's son Orrin H. Ingram II, and celebrated the naming of the E. Bronson Ingram Cancer Center at Vanderbilt. The new name is in recognition of the Ingram family's longstanding support of the university and its programs.

"One in two men and one in three women in this country will get cancer," said Orrin Ingram, co-president of Ingram Industries Inc., chairman of Ingram Barge Co., and chairman of the Vanderbilt Ingram Cancer Center (VICC) board of overseers.

"That's very scary. The theme for our campaign is 'Imagine a World Without Cancer,' and my goal really is to do what I can to make that a reality. I want to see a time when a cancer diagnosis is an inconvenience, to be sure, but not a life-threatening situation. This is a much bigger problem than any one family's resources or commitment can solve. I hope that what we're doing will be a catalyst for other families to get involved."

The event was attended by hundreds of community leaders and supporters of Vanderbilt. Emcee for the program was Frances Williams Preston, president and CEO of Broadcast Music Inc., member of the VICC board, and president of the T.J. Martell Foundation, the music industry's primary charity. The foundation supports a research program at the VICC named in honor of Preston.

Orrin Ingram noted that the support of the Martell Foundation and others has built a strong foundation on which the next phase of growth for the VICC can be built.

"My family is joining a large collaboration that has already created the Henry-Joyce Cancer Clinics and Clinical Research Center, the A.B. Hancock Jr. Memorial Laboratory, the Frances Williams Preston Laboratories and many endowed chairs," he said. "Their involvement was critical in creating the cancer center, and their continued support is vital to reaching the goals we have set."

Speakers included Dr. Richard Klausner, director of the National Cancer Institute, a part of the National Institutes of Health that has designated the VICC as a leader in cancer care and research. The VICC is one of a select few NCI-designated cancer centers in the southeast, one of only two in Tennessee, and the only one in the state dedicated to research and treatment of all kinds of cancer in adults and children.

Klausner outlined his vision for the future of cancer treatment and prevention and noted the important role that private support must play in the effort.

"The recent decline in death and incidence rates from cancer is the best proof that cancer research is on the right track," Klausner said. "However, it is not the time for complacency. This is a time to redouble and rededicate our efforts.

"While the NCI is the major supporter of cancer-related research in this country, government cannot win this battle alone. The generosity of the Ingram family in making this gift to the Vanderbilt Cancer Center is an example of public-private partnership that is critical to sustaining the effort to conquer this disease once and for all."

Vice President Al Gore was unable to attend but sent videotaped remarks.

The Ingrams have been strong and active supporters of Vanderbilt for many years. Bronson Ingram, the founder of Ingram Industries, served as president of the University Board of Trust from 1991 until his death, and he led The Campaign for Vanderbilt, the university's most recent capital campaign which raised $560 million to support the university and its programs.

Last winter, the Ingram family pledged the largest gift in Vanderbilt University history, valued at more than $300 million. The cancer center gift is the first announced allocation of that pledge.

"This event is an opportunity to remember Bronson Ingram and to celebrate his leadership and his unwavering support of Vanderbilt University," said Chancellor Joe B. Wyatt.

"It is also an occasion to celebrate his family's continued dedication and generosity and to express our appreciation for their confidence in us to make a significant contribution in the fight against cancer. The E. Bronson Ingram Cancer Center at Vanderbilt surely will be a lasting memorial to his greatness."

The Ingrams have also funded numerous scholarships and research efforts and have endowed four professorships, including the Hortense B. Ingram Professorship in Molecular Oncology in honor of Bronson Ingram's mother, who also died of cancer.

The fund-raising campaign is called "Imagine a World Without Cancer" in recognition of the primary goal of the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center's 10-year strategic plan: to prevent most cancers and cure those that do develop with more targeted, less toxic treatments. It is a goal that Klausner and Dr. Harold L. Moses, Benjamin F. Byrd Professor of Oncology and director of the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, say is more within reach than ever before.

"We have learned so much in recent years about what makes a normal cell become a cancer cell," Moses said. "We have much yet to do, but we now know the directions to go."

The Ingrams' investment, along with funds generated by the campaign, will be used to recruit and retain top scientists and clinicians, provide the latest in equipment and expand Vanderbilt's efforts in cancer research, treatment and prevention.

"Our plan is to invest in the best and brightest people and the cutting-edge technology that they need to carry out their work," Moses said. "Our vision is to be recognized among the very top cancer centers in the country."

The plan calls for building on the cancer center's existing strengths and expanding in important areas of cancer research. These include:

— vascular biology (the blood supply needed by tumors to grow and spread),

— functional genomics (what the body's millions of genes do),

— signal transduction (the ways cells 'talk' to each other),

— prevention research,

— and clinical trials of new agents and new combinations of therapies.

Orrin Ingram said he and his family have faith in the scientists and doctors at Vanderbilt to make a significant contribution to the search for ways to prevent and cure cancer, which is the second leading killer in the United States after heart disease.

"When my father was sick and we were feeling desperate, he said there was nowhere better to be treated for cancer, and I believe he was right," Orrin Ingram said. "My biggest regret is that I didn't get involved in this fight earlier. I can't help but wonder where we would be today if we had begun this 10 years ago."

Orrin Ingram said his involvement in the fight against cancer is motivated by anger, by a desire to "get revenge" on the disease that took not only his father, but also his grandmother, and by a hope that his children and nieces and nephews will not face the same threat.

"Had I been a doctor or scientist, I could take this on more directly, but obviously I'm not," he said. "One of the ways I can get my revenge is to provide Dr. Moses with the funding he needs so he and his team can do the things I wasn't able to do."