Impact & Progress

Impact & Progress

What is funded here saves lives everywhere.

As the stories below show, support for The Dana-Farber Campaign is already transforming cancer science and patient care. Our patients have access to more than 1,100 clinical trials. Fifty-one biotech start-ups have been launched using Dana-Farber discoveries, speeding the development of new drugs. We need your partnership to accelerate the pace of progress and help us deliver a solution for every patient. Defying cancer isn’t just a goal. It’s our reason for being.

To Defy Cancer, we have set a bold and ambitious $2 billion goal.
To our community of supporters, thanks a billion for getting us halfway there.

Entrepreneurial–Russ and Paula

Entrepreneurial–Russ and Paula

Russ Agrusa met his wife, Paula, doing laundry in the basement of a residence hall at the University of Buffalo. He invited her for a homemade lasagna dinner with fresh bread he had baked, and by the spring of Paula’s senior year, they were married. Ever the risk-takers, Russ and Paula employed their entrepreneurial spirit together for over 30 years to create an international software company, ICONICS, with hundreds of employees and offices in 30 countries. And then in 2012, Paula was diagnosed with colon cancer, although she was only in her early 50s. “We bet that if anyone could...

Russ Agrusa met his wife, Paula, doing laundry in the basement of a residence hall at the University of Buffalo. He invited her for a homemade lasagna dinner with fresh bread he had baked, and by the spring of Paula’s senior year, they were married.

Ever the risk-takers, Russ and Paula employed their entrepreneurial spirit together for over 30 years to create an international software company, ICONICS, with hundreds of employees and offices in 30 countries.

And then in 2012, Paula was diagnosed with colon cancer, although she was only in her early 50s.

“We bet that if anyone could find something that would help Paula and others with colon cancer, it would be the team at Dana-Farber,” says Russ. Recognizing the potential of immunotherapies—successfully implemented for other forms of cancer—the couple established the Project P Fund at Dana-Farber to support innovative research into immunotherapies for colorectal cancer.

After a courageous five-year battle, Paula died on February 7th, 2016, and Russ vowed to honor her legacy by continuing to support the Project P Fund.

He recently pledged an additional $4 million as part of The Dana-Farber Campaign to fund a multidisciplinary team led by Kimmie Ng, MD, MPH, director of the Young-Onset Colorectal Cancer Center and director of clinical research in the Gastrointestinal Cancer Center (GCC); Jeffrey Meyerhardt, MD, MPH, FASCO, the Douglas Woodruff Chair in Colorectal Cancer Research; and Marios Giannakis, MD, PhD, a laboratory investigator in the GCC. Meyerhardt and Ng also serve as co-directors of the Colon and Rectal Cancer Center.

With this generous funding, the Dana-Farber team will expand their research efforts by studying the microbiome of colorectal cancer patients and its effect on a patient’s response to therapy—particularly immunotherapy; exploring how CAR T-cell therapies and other personalized vaccine approaches can be made effective for patients with colorectal cancer; and conducting immunogenomic and single-cell sequencing studies to develop methods of overcoming drug resistance.

"After Paula’s diagnosis, and the amazing care given by the staff of Dana-Farber, we were inspired by the dedication and talent of those helping others with colon cancer,” said Russ. “I believe that the research dollar goes farther at Dana-Farber than at any other institution in the world. I have seen many amazing scientific publications and I can’t wait to see all of the new discoveries that are made by this distinguished team at Dana-Farber."

Supportive-Smiths

Supportive-Smiths

Since Dana-Farber’s founding, serving and supporting its mission has been a family affair for the Smiths. The late Richard A. “Dick” Smith, his late wife Susan, and their family have had a generations-long relationship with Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and a transformational impact. While running businesses with holdings in movie theaters, book publishing, high-end retail, and other arenas, Dick Smith also served on Dana-Farber’s board from 1962 until his death in 2020. He was President of the Institute from 1973 to 1978 and its Chairman from 1979 to 1981. Dick’s late father, Philip, had also been a board member. Sue, his...

Since Dana-Farber’s founding, serving and supporting its mission has been a family affair for the Smiths. The late Richard A. “Dick” Smith, his late wife Susan, and their family have had a generations-long relationship with Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and a transformational impact.

While running businesses with holdings in movie theaters, book publishing, high-end retail, and other arenas, Dick Smith also served on Dana-Farber’s board from 1962 until his death in 2020. He was President of the Institute from 1973 to 1978 and its Chairman from 1979 to 1981.

Dick’s late father, Philip, had also been a board member. Sue, his wife, who died in 2016, was also a longtime Trustee, and his daughter, Amy Smith Berylson, is now on the Dana-Farber board.

Dick and Sue were the Institute’s most dedicated supporters, providing the needed advice, leadership, and philanthropic support that shaped Dana-Farber’s current status as New England’s foremost cancer center, and a global force for research and patient care. While the couple supported many worthy charities, Dana-Farber was perhaps the one that they supported the longest and most generously with their time and resources.

“If he thought something was worth doing, but finances were standing in the way—that he could solve,” said David Nathan, MD, president emeritus of the Institute, at the time of Dick Smith’s passing in 2020 at the age of 95. “He’d tell me, ‘Writing a check is easy. Figuring out what the money should be for, that is the hard part.’”

In 2006, Sue and Dick directed transformational philanthropy to help fund construction of the Yawkey Center for Cancer Care. The Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers at Dana-Farber, which opened in 2011, was named in Sue’s honor in recognition of her volunteer leadership. They also established the Richard A. and Susan F. Smith Research Laboratories and named a professorship at Harvard Medical School and Dana-Farber. The Smiths supported many other projects, such as the Susan F. Smith Center Living Biobank, and funded several awards to recognize excellence in biomedical research.

In 2018, when Dick Smith provided early support at the outset of The Dana-Farber Campaign, it was a testament to the Institute’s new strategic plan, strongly demonstrating the family’s confidence once again in leadership’s ability to guide and lead the Institute in pursuit of its ambitious goals.

“Over more than 50 years, I have seen amazing strides in cancer treatment brought about by the brilliant Dana-Farber researchers and clinicians,” Dick Smith said at the time. “And I am very pleased to support Laurie Glimcher’s vision for taking this lifesaving work to the next level.”

90% Cure rate for Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL) with 10% yet to solve 90%
Dedicated–Salice Family Foundation

Dedicated–Salice Family Foundation

Susan and Tom Salice have been focused throughout their lives to do what they can to provide equality of access to transformative initiatives from education to healthcare. The Dana-Farber Patient Navigation Program is one such promising initiative. With their gift of $1 million through the Salice Family Foundation, the Salices believe they can inspire others to give to an Institute-wide program to reach a diverse group of patients that mirrors Boston’s communities, enabling anyone diagnosed with cancer to access Dana-Farber’s cutting-edge treatments and compassionate care. The Institute’s patient navigation program was created in 2005 to guide medically underserved patients and their families through the complexities of cancer screening and care in a way that is sensitive to both their medical needs...

Susan and Tom Salice have been focused throughout their lives to do what they can to provide equality of access to transformative initiatives from education to healthcare. The Dana-Farber Patient Navigation Program is one such promising initiative. With their gift of $1 million through the Salice Family Foundation, the Salices believe they can inspire others to give to an Institute-wide program to reach a diverse group of patients that mirrors Boston’s communities, enabling anyone diagnosed with cancer to access Dana-Farber’s cutting-edge treatments and compassionate care.

The Institute’s patient navigation program was created in 2005 to guide medically underserved patients and their families through the complexities of cancer screening and care in a way that is sensitive to both their medical needs and their cultural backgrounds. Based on the original model of patient navigation for vulnerable populations, the program builds one-to-one connections with patients from the beginning of their journey as they transition from their community provider to Dana-Farber.

With the Salice Foundation gift, Dana-Farber is launching a pilot patient navigation program, under the leadership of Christopher Lathan, MD, MS, MPH, chief clinical access and equity officer, and Magnolia Contreras, MSW, MBA, vice president of community health, starting with gastrointestinal cancers.        

Minority communities are disproportionately represented among patients with GI cancers. Black Americans are 20% more likely to develop colon and rectal cancer and about 40% more likely to die from it than most other racial or ethnic groups. Hispanic individuals diagnosed with liver cancer are twice as likely to die as a result of the disease than non-Hispanic whites.

“As a clinician, I have witnessed firsthand the challenges that patients of low socioeconomic status and patients of color face, whether it is language, transportation, or education about their treatment options,” said Lathan. “Recent events have catalyzed Dana-Farber’s institutional self-reflection on how we can apply our expertise in cancer care and community outreach to save more lives.”

By year two, Lathan anticipates that the pilot navigator in the GI clinic will be integrated into its clinical operation, and planning will begin to hire two navigators for the thoracic and hematologic oncology center. The program will then include the genitourinary oncology, with a navigator assisting men from vulnerable populations with prostate cancer.  Increasing minority patient accrual in clinical trials is a priority for Dana-Farber, and additional navigators will work across the Institute to provide specialized clinical trial navigation for patients participating in research.

“We love that Dana-Farber offers the highest level of cancer care without boundaries,” says Susan Salice. “For many people, access to this care is unimaginable and beyond their reach, but with the support, guidance, and direction provided by the patient navigator program more lives will be given hope.”

Cheerleaders-Lambs

Cheerleaders-Lambs

A lifelong Red Sox fan, Steve Lamb says he first became aware of the Jimmy Fund and Dana-Farber at the age of 5 or 6, long before he had any idea what they did. But both he and his wife Sally have experienced the devastation cancer can cause. “I have a brother and sister who both passed away from cancer, and two brothers who are cancer survivors,” he says. “On Sally’s side, she has a niece, first cousin, and an aunt and uncle who all passed away from cancer.” “So there’s been cancer on both sides of the family, lots...

A lifelong Red Sox fan, Steve Lamb says he first became aware of the Jimmy Fund and Dana-Farber at the age of 5 or 6, long before he had any idea what they did. But both he and his wife Sally have experienced the devastation cancer can cause.

“I have a brother and sister who both passed away from cancer, and two brothers who are cancer survivors,” he says. “On Sally’s side, she has a niece, first cousin, and an aunt and uncle who all passed away from cancer.”

“So there’s been cancer on both sides of the family, lots of it; people who have passed away,” he says. “And there are success stories.”

While the Lambs feel fortunate not to have had pediatric cancers in their family, Steve and Sally established the Lamb Family Fund at Dana-Farber to advance care for children with cancer because, as Sally says, “there’s nothing worse for a parent.”

Their gifts to the individualized cancer therapy protocol (iCAT) program, together with the support of others, have helped bring together Dana-Farber and 11 other cancer centers into a consortium to provide the best precision treatments to more than 600 children across the country with solid tumors. This work is now expanding to learn more about the drivers of sarcomas, including the role of epigenetic mechanisms, and ways to target them with treatment.

The goal is to match patients with the best treatments, find new avenues for drug development, and develop testing that will enable researchers and clinicians to better predict a child’s response to a particular treatment based on their individual cancer.

Steve and Sally are confident that this work could help change lives everywhere.

“I’m so hopeful when information sharing happens in the medical community, not just in New England but around the world,” says Sally.

“Especially in pediatrics,” Steve adds, “because thankfully there are so few cases. The growing database is so important and impressive.”

“A lot of these pediatric cancers are new, they’re different, nobody has ever seen them before,” Steve says.

He recalls a story told by Katherine Janeway, MD, director of clinical genomics at Dana-Farber, about a young boy who traveled internationally to Dana-Farber with a tumor on his hip. “The doctors at Dana-Farber didn’t even know how to classify it or what it was,” he recalls. “But they figured out, ‘OK, it kind of acts like this other one. So let’s see if the same drug that works for that tumor will work for this one.’ And it did!”

“These scientists really believe that cures are possible and they are going to find them,” says Steve. “That helps us to say ‘OK, we want to support that.’”

“It’s easy to get caught up in their enthusiasm,” echoes Sally. “So we’re right on board. We’re their cheerleaders. Let’s do it!”

Visionary-Bendersons

Visionary-Bendersons

A year before her 40th wedding anniversary, Lori Benderson was diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer.  Triple-negative breast cancer affects only 10-15 percent of all breast cancer patients, and is found more often in women under 40 and in those who are of African-American or Hispanic heritage. Unlike other forms of breast cancer, which have estrogen, progesterone, or HER2 receptors that can be targeted with chemotherapy, triple-negative cancer, as the name suggests, has none of those receptor targets. It is also usually more aggressive than these other tumors.  With no specific receptor target, surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation can be less effective...

A year before her 40th wedding anniversary, Lori Benderson was diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer. 

Triple-negative breast cancer affects only 10-15 percent of all breast cancer patients, and is found more often in women under 40 and in those who are of African-American or Hispanic heritage. Unlike other forms of breast cancer, which have estrogen, progesterone, or HER2 receptors that can be targeted with chemotherapy, triple-negative cancer, as the name suggests, has none of those receptor targets. It is also usually more aggressive than these other tumors. 

With no specific receptor target, surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation can be less effective and often result in significant side effects.  

But Lori and her husband, Randy, had heard about important advances in breast cancer treatment at Dana-Farber, and decided to travel from Florida to Boston to pursue an opinion. After meeting with Dana-Farber’s Dr. Eric Winer and the team, they learned that the Institute was pioneering numerous clinical trials to test new treatments, including immunotherapy and PARP inhibitors, to overcome the hurdles posed by her particular cancer.

Hopeful for the future, Lori’s treatment was not easy—but her 40th wedding anniversary became an extra-special occasion. She remains cancer free five years after treatment. And she and Randy are so grateful for the care they received that they have donated $6 million to establish the Benderson Family Program for Triple-Negative Breast Cancer—the largest philanthropic donation to research for this disease at Dana-Farber. Their giving allows Dr. Winer and his team to continue providing exceptional care and expand their research, including efforts to identify new drug targets and design new clinical trials.

“We are confident that Dana-Farber will lead the way to lifesaving treatments for this relentless disease,” says Randy.

“Many women diagnosed with this form of breast cancer will do very well with existing treatments,” says Winer, Chief of the Division of Breast Oncology in the Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers at Dana-Farber and Senior Vice President for Medical Affairs and Faculty Advancement and Thompson Chair in Breast Cancer Research. “But there are still far too many women with this diagnosis who urgently need new and better treatments. Thanks to the Benderson Family, our researchers will build on what we already know about this disease and help many more women with it defy cancer.” 

What we learn at Dana-Farber is saving lives everywhere. Your gift will ensure that our momentum accelerates in every way. Together, we will Defy Cancer.

Thank you for your interest in learning more about The Dana-Farber Campaign. You have been added to our email list and will receive updates on ways to join us in defying cancer. You can unsubscribe at any time.
There has been an issue submitting your request. Please try again.

Sign up to receive emails from Dana-Farber and the Jimmy Fund.

   Please leave this field empty