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Illumination Gala: Celebrating a Decade of Innovative Cancer Research

More than 500 of our community’s most compassionate and generous cancer fighters joined together on the evening of June 3 to raise a record-breaking $3.3 million at The Foundation for Barnes-Jewish Hospital’s 10th annual Illumination Gala to support innovative research at Siteman Cancer Center.

The event, held at The Ritz-Carlton, St. Louis, brought together community leaders, physician-scientists from Siteman, and donors for a night filled with entertainment, touching patient stories, and fundraising for the Foundation’s Cancer Frontier Fund. Broadway stars Marin Mazzie and Jason Danieley entertained the crowd with some of the most beloved hits in musical theater.

Community Philanthropists Lead the Way

Illumination’s monumental progress is made possible by the support of our event co-chairs. For the 10th annual celebration this year, past Illumination co-chairs Bill and Amy Koman and Tom and Jennifer Hillman led the community fundraising efforts.

Illumination was also supported this year by honorary co-chairs and Visionary sponsors Paula and Rodger Riney. When Rodger, founder of the former Scottrade, was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, Siteman was his cancer center of choice for treatment. Through his visionary support of the Illumination Gala and Cancer Frontier Fund, he’s paving the way for a brighter future for other patients with multiple myeloma and other cancers.

Research Progress Now

Amy and Bill Koman created the Cancer Frontier Fund in 2010 to help Siteman researchers accelerate breakthroughs that will bring the best possible treatments to patients around the world.

Since the Illumination Gala began, donors to the Foundation have raised more than $22 million for the Cancer Frontier Fund, which has supported more than 60 cancer research projects. Many of these projects lead to broader research funding and collaboration with other world-class institutions that wouldn’t have been possible without initial donor support. For example, in 2016, Siteman received a $10.4 million federal grant for pancreatic research thanks to donor support of pilot research.

Your Support at Work

In the last 20 years, mortality from cancer has dropped 25 percent thanks to research progress. Our understanding and treatment of cancer is in the midst of unprecedented transformational change, fueled by new technologies and new ideas. Today, researchers at Siteman are translating these discoveries into novel treatments for patients, thanks to the ongoing support of donors who support the Foundation’s Cancer Frontier Fund.

RESEARCH PROJECT: Deactivating the Innate Immune Defense Mechanism of Pancreatic Cancer
Principal Investigator: Kian Lim, MD, PhD

Goal: To develop therapies to “deactivate” the defense mechanisms in pancreatic cancer cells that make them resistant to chemotherapy.

RESEARCH PROJECT: Siteman Cancer Center Breast Cancer SPORE
Principal Investigator:  William Gillanders, MD

Goal: To create a Breast Specialized Program of Research Excellence (SPORE) program focused on tumor immunology, oncologic imaging, surgical oncology and breast cancer biology that will enable researchers to quickly translate basic science discoveries to clinical uses for patients with breast cancer.

RESEARCH PROJECT: Functional Genomics of Ovarian Cancer Metastasis
Principal investigator: Katherine Fuh, MD, PhD

Goal: Identify which cell mechanisms are responsible for the spread of ovarian cancer so these pathways can be targeted with new therapies.

RESEARCH PROJECT: Exploring T Cell Diversity as a Novel Mechanism for Cancer Immunotherapy
Principal Investigator:  Ryan Teague, PhD

Goal: To acquire a deeper understating of how T cells possibly influence patient response to immunotherapy so the T cells can be harnessed to improve outcomes for patients with cancer.

RESEARCH PROJECT: The role of onco-lncRNA-230 as an epigenetic regulator of colon cancer metastasis
Principal investigator: Christopher Maher, PhD

Goal: To develop new treatments for colorectal cancer by studying a recently discovered molecule that plays a central role in enabling a primary tumor to develop in distant organs.

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