For Institute Trustee Michael Eisenson, convincing people that Dana-Farber is a worthy place to invest time and resources comes easily. As Chair of The Dana-Farber Campaign, he is quick to spread the word to friends and loved ones, including his cousin Neil Mellen.
Responding to the opportunity, the Mellen and Eisenson Family made a generous gift of more than $3 million to bolster The Dana-Farber Campaign, with a significant portion of the gift supporting the newly launched Center for BRCA and Related Genes—a program area where Neil and Michael felt they could make the biggest impact on several aims of the campaign.
“In speaking with senior leadership, we learned that we are in the very early innings of promising work to understand the genetic bases of many types of cancers, and in using that understanding to create earlier diagnostics and more effective approaches to therapy,” said Michael. “This center, which appears to be so far unique in the U.S., seemed like a particularly high-impact opportunity to us.”
The center is of particular significance to Neil and Michael, who both lost close family members to cancer at young ages. Michael’s mother passed away in her 40s, and Neil’s daughter in her 50s. Their gift establishes the Nancy Ann Mellen Fund for Research and Clinical Trial Support, as well as The Mellen and Eisenson Family endowed fund that will provide ongoing support for this program in perpetuity. The funds will be managed under the direction of Panos Konstantinopoulos, MD, PhD, director of translational research in Gynecologic Oncology, and Judy Garber, MD, MPH, chief of the Division of Cancer Genetics and Prevention and the Susan F. Smith Chair at Dana-Farber. Konstantinopoulos and Garber serve with Dipanjan Chowdhury, PhD, as co-directors of the BRCA Center.
The gift also includes a significant investment in early career researchers through the David Livingston Early Career Investigator Awards, in honor of Michael’s close friend David Livingston, MD, who has built a legacy of mentoring early career physician-scientists at Dana-Farber over the course of 50 years. Under Garber’s direction, these awards will support select, early career investigators pursuing promising projects within the center’s areas of focus that have the potential for high-impact clinical applications.
“For both Michael and me, the quality of the people at Dana-Farber was the key to our decision about where to invest,” said Neil.
As a committed Trustee for many years, Michael also pledged unrestricted support through the Trustee Annual Fund, which provides flexible funds to support the greatest needs across the Institute; and for the Presidential Initiatives Fund, which allows President and CEO Laurie H. Glimcher, MD, to direct funds to promising high-risk, high-reward studies that hold great potential for discovery.
Michael’s commitment to inspiring others to become involved with Dana-Farber’s mission is further reflected by the portion of this gift being given through the Pan-Mass Challenge (PMC), the nation’s largest athletic fundraiser that draws participants from all over the country and solely supports Dana-Farber and the Jimmy Fund. The PMC is Dana-Farber’s largest single contributor, accounting for 64% of the Jimmy Fund’s annual revenue.
“This generous commitment from the Mellen and Eisenson Family brings us that much closer to achieving the ambitious goals of The Dana-Farber Campaign,” said Glimcher. “I am grateful for the trust they have placed in our ongoing work to understand, prevent, and treat BRCA cancers. Their generosity will help us improve the lives of patients for years to come.”