A $1 million gift from Tony Markel, vice chair of the Markel Corporation, and his daughters, Diana and Melinda, has established the Markel/Friedman Peritoneal Ovarian Cancer Research Fund at City of Hope in memory of his late wife, Susan.
The gift, which was augmented by nearly $250,000 in personal donations made in Susan Markel’s memory, will support research programs that investigate methods of early detection and seek to improve treatment. Markel lost his wife to peritoneal cancer in January.
|The late Susan Markel, second from left, with Tony Markel and the couple’s family. (Photo by Thomas Brown)|
The fund also recognizes Michael A. Friedman, M.D., City of Hope president and chief executive officer, for the support he provided to the Markel family during Susan Markel’s treatment.
“Each year, peritoneal and ovarian cancers affect an estimated 175,000 women and their families,” Markel said. “There is a tremendous need for research to help improve treatments and outcomes for women facing these diseases. The Markel/Friedman Peritoneal Ovarian Cancer Research Fund will promote research collaboration and help City of Hope uncover new treatments and screening methods that can help save lives.”
Robert A. Figlin, M.D., Arthur and Rosalie Kaplan Professor of Medical Oncology and acting director of the Comprehensive Cancer Center, said the fund symbolizes City of Hope’s push to contribute more widely and profoundly to knowledge about women’s cancers.
“This important donation will carry out focused, measurable efforts in the early diagnosis and treatment of ovarian and peritoneal cancers,” Figlin said. “In addition to funding new research projects, a portion of the funds will allow us to redirect existing institutional commitments to carry out ovarian cancer-specific research.”
Initially, the Markel/Friedman Peritoneal Ovarian Cancer Research Fund will support three studies.
The first is a two-year study led by City of Hope investigators Robert J. Morgan Jr., M.D., co-director of the Gynecologic Oncology/Peritoneal Malignancy Program, and Mark Wakabayashi, M.D., M.P.H., director of the Division of Gynecologic Oncology. The study will focus on a marker that might help physicians and their patients determine the best course of treatment.
Researchers believe that levels of the marker, a protein, may predict which patients would benefit most from platinum-based chemotherapies, sparing other patients the side effects of a treatment that would likely prove unhelpful.
A second, preclinical study led by Richard Jove, Ph.D., director of Beckman Research Institute, aims to discover and develop new drugs for ovarian cancer. Jove focuses on STAT3, and he and his colleagues hope to bring new drugs to the clinic within three to five years.
A third project, led by Jeffrey Weitzel, M.D., director of the Division of Clinical Cancer Genetics, proposes to improve current models that predict women’s risk of developing ovarian cancer. He also intends to customize ovarian cancer treatments to address certain patterns of genetic mutations in women at high risk, as well as study other aspects of ovarian cancer therapy linked to genetics.
“City of Hope’s physicians and scientists are committed to finding better treatments for ovarian and other forms of cancer, and better understanding its development,” said Friedman. “This generous grant will help us continue our mission to bring discoveries quickly to patients for whom time is precious. We are truly grateful to Tony Markel and his family for their dedication to City of Hope.”
Markel has been involved with City of Hope through the National Insurance Industry Council fundraising group and was presented with its Spirit of Life® Award in 2006 in recognition of his philanthropic efforts within his industry and community.
As a member of the third generation of Markels in the Markel Corporation, he, along with his cousins Alan Kirshner and Steve Markel, and brother Gary Markel, took over management of the firm in the early 1970s.
They successfully converted the MGA operation into a full fledged insurance company that they took public in 1986. Through a series of acquisitions and “start ups” over the last 20 years, Markel Corporation is now one of the 50 largest property and casualty insurance companies in the United States.
Markel has been involved in numerous philanthropic efforts through the Anthony F. and Susan M. Markel Foundation, most notably benefiting the Milton L. Markel Alzheimer’s Research Fund, the Cullather Brain Cancer Fund, the University of Virginia Athletic Foundation, the YMCA and the Richmond Metro Boys and Girls Club.