A Southern California family has turned its private tragedy into an unyielding drive against leukemia, giving City of Hope scientists $1.8 million over three decades to find answers to the blood disease.
Originally spurred by the loss of a family member, the George Hoag Family Foundation has regularly funded leukemia research at City of Hope.
Most recently, the foundation awarded $65,000 to support work by Mark H. Kirschbaum, M.D., director of new drug development in the Department of Hematology & Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation.
|Valerie Jimenez, front left, Beelynda Martinez, Deron Matsuoka, Alejandra Torres and Joel Conrad manage phase I and II clinical trials in blood cancers with support from the Hoag Foundation. (Photo by Alicia Di Rado)|
Kirschbaum’s lab is developing novel, smarter agents to combat leukemia, a disease that still claims the lives of half of those diagnosed with it within five years. Patients in his current clinical trials are receiving several advanced medications that specifically target molecular vulnerabilities in leukemia cells. Researchers say the foundation’s ongoing backing keeps their momentum going.
“The support of the Hoag Foundation has been instrumental in helping us foster a novel drug-development program to treat leukemia,” said Stephen J. Forman, M.D., the Francis and Kathleen McNamara Distinguished Chair in Hematology and Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation and chair of the Department of Hematology & Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation.
Kirschbaum investigates less-toxic targeted therapies aimed at older patients. Leukemia disproportionately strikes senior citizens, who often cannot stand the rigors of traditional chemotherapy and bone marrow transplants, so researchers like Kirschbaum seek gentler answers.
“Right now, clinical trials are the official answer to how to treat older leukemia,” Kirschbaum said. “But these trials are very expensive and laborintensive. So we’re very grateful to the Hoag Foundation for making this research possible.”
Some of the molecular therapies developed in Kirschbaum’s lab have shown even wider potential. Several of the drugs have turned out to be beneficial for younger patients as well, including those who relapse after their initial treatment.
Started in 1940, the George Hoag Family Foundation focuses on assisting health-care, social service and youth-related charities in California. One of its touchstone gifts, given in 1950, established the Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian, a medical center in Newport Beach, Calif.
The Hoag Foundation has funded leukemia research at City of Hope since at least 1972, awarding grants almost every year during that span. Hoag: Foundation funds support development of innovative new drugs for patients with leukemia Continued from page 2 The relationship between the Hoags and the cancer center stretches back even further. George Hoag I, an early partner in the J.C. Penney Company, first became involved with City of Hope through a precursor to City of Hope’s Apparel Industry Group. His son and foundation co-founder, George Hoag II, served on City of Hope’s board of trustees, equivalent to the present-day board of governors, during the 1970s.
|Mark Kirschbaum (Photo by Bill Rich)|
The family’s interest in leukemia research and dedication to finding a cure originates with George Hoag I, whose beloved niece died of leukemia during the 1940s.
Now, a third generation of the Hoag family continues its tradition of philanthropy — and of supporting City of Hope. George Hoag II’s daughter, Melinda Hoag Smith, of Santa Monica, Calif., is president and chief executive officer of the foundation, and his son, George Hoag III, serves as vice president. Charles W. Smith III, Melinda Hoag’s husband, is the foundation’s secretary and executive director. And the family is pleased to continue its longtime association with City of Hope.
“We have a history that’s been mutually rewarding,” Charles Smith said. “Part of our mission at the Hoag Foundation is to alleviate pain and suffering, and the work being done at City of Hope gets right to the heart of that mission.”