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New Partnership Promises Benefits for Patients

Don MorelA recognized leader in kinase research, Fox Chase chief scientific officer Jonathan Chernoff, MD, PhD, knew that launching a Cancer Kinome Initiative could mean substantial payoff for patients. Now he needed supporters to jump start the Initiative until its work could mature to earn more external funding. In Don and Lauren Morel, he found the perfect philanthropic partners.

Collectively known as the kinome, the 518 human kinases are a group of enzymes that are often co-opted by cancer cells to cause uncontrolled growth and invasion into surrounding tissues.  While drugs that interrupt kinase signals often induce remarkable shrinkage of tumors, over time these tumors usually develop resistance to such agents and resume growth. What is needed is an effective method to determine how cancer cells are “reprogrammed” to evade kinase inhibitors.

Kinases have long been a focus for Chernoff and his colleague Jeff Peterson, PhD. In 2013, they were joined by a young scientist, James Duncan, PhD, who is working to establish a novel approach to measuring the activity of the entire kinome at a much greater and more precise level. This detailed information will show how tumors are responding to treatment so clinicians can adjust a patient’s drug regimen over time.

Hoping to organize this endeavor into a formalized Initiative, Chernoff sought a philanthropic partner. Don Morel, CEO of the highly successful West Pharma­ceutical Services, was a natural match. A PhD in materials science who has led West in developing novel pharma­ceutical technology, Morel was quick to recognize the value in galvanizing the Center’s kinome research effort. He and his wife Lauren pledged their support.

A powerful scientific idea

“Lauren and I were convinced by the underlying science but also by Jon Chernoff’s enthusiasm for the translational potential,” says Morel, chair of the Fox Chase Foundation Board of Directors. “We are excited by the possibility that this powerful scientific idea can work its way up from the lab to benefit patients.”

Continuing support

The Morels’ support for the Initiative is the latest in a long line of generous gifts to Fox Chase. They have funded two endowed chairs to support prominent Fox Chase researchers, and each fall, dozens of West employees raise roughly $150,000 for Fox Chase at the Philadelphia International Dragon Boat Festival.

“Now,” Chernoff says, “the Morels are making possible a new and promising approach to tumor profiling that is not available elsewhere. Thanks to them, Fox Chase is at the forefront of this work.”

 

2014