Institute Trustee Ted Pasquarello and his wife, Eileen, recently made a new gift of $2 million in support of cellular therapies research under the direction of Robert Soiffer, MD, vice chair of the department of Medical Oncology and chief of the Division of Hematologic Malignancies.
The Pasquarellos’ involvement with Dana-Farber stretches back to the 1990s, when Ted was diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML). He underwent treatment overseen by Soiffer, which included a stem cell transplant and a new drug called imatinib—known by the brand name Gleevec—one of the earliest targeted therapies available for CML that was a gamechanger for cancer medicine. Ted, who has been in remission since 2003, points to this experience as a key motivator for funding early stage research that shows long-term promise.
“I was very fortunate to receive one of the earlier drugs, and it has led us to support research that could help somebody in the future,” said Ted. “Our donations always go to where we can make the biggest progress.”
The Pasquarellos’ new commitment provides powerful momentum to The Dana-Farber Campaign through its support of two key cellular therapy studies led by Soiffer and Jerome Ritz, MD, executive director of the Connell and O’Reilly Families Cell Manipulation Core Facility.
The first is research into harnessing natural killer (NK) cells— aggressive immune cells that can attack disease cells at a moment’s notice—to treat many forms of cancer. The second project will leverage a genetic weakness of the common Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) to develop a new class of T cells capable of treating B cell malignancies. This treatment, called CD4 T-cell therapy, aims to prompt a similar immune response as in EBV to potentially eliminate cancer and prevent recurrence.
“Ted and Eileen’s continuous philanthropic support over the years has kickstarted several early stage projects,” said Soiffer, who also serves as chair of the Executive Committee for Clinical Programs. “Our work in cellular therapies holds tremendous promise for countless patients, and this latest commitment will help accelerate our progress.”
The Pasquarellos have seen their seed funding pay off in other projects, such as the Pasquarello Tissue Bank, which has provided researchers with invaluable patient samples for more than 20 years. The Pasquarellos’ foresight is also evident through their membership in the Dana-Farber Society, which honors those who have left a legacy to the Institute in their will, estate plans, or through other deferred and complex assets.
“When I look back over 23 years now, and I see some of the things that they’ve done and the dedication that they have, I feel grateful,” said Ted. “They eat, sleep, and think constantly about how to help patients. We’re proud to provide the capital to make it happen.”