Belfer Foundation funds new translational cancer institute

The Arthur and Rochelle Belfer Foundation has pledged $8 million to create the Arthur and Rochelle Belfer Institute of Hematology and Medical Oncology at Weill Medical College of Cornell University.

The foundation, established by Arthur and Rochelle Belfer in 1951, now represents three generations of the Belfer, Ruben and Saltz families, whose giving to Weill Cornell Medical College over the years has totaled more than $22 million. Foundation trustees Robert Belfer, Lawrence Ruben and Jack Saltz were instrumental in arranging the gift. Robert Belfer has served on the Medical College's Board of Overseers since 1989 and continues to play a leadership role in the College's strategic planning process.

The Belfer Institute will be dedicated to the efficient translation of laboratory discoveries into novel and more effective treatment strategies for patients with cancer and blood disorders.

The gift, a major component of Weill Cornell's recently completed $750 million capital campaign, Advancing the Clinical Mission, will fund the renovation of the Medical College's hematology and medical oncology laboratories, new equipment for its tissue bank, and the recruitment of up to eight new faculty members with expertise in translational and clinical research. Construction began in March, and the Center is expected to open next summer.

"The Arthur and Rochelle Belfer Foundation is very pleased to play a part in advancing cutting-edge research efforts that will have immediate application and tangible benefit in the treatment of cancer patients at Weill Cornell and worldwide," says Robert A. Belfer, President of the Arthur and Rochelle Belfer Foundation.

In announcing the gift, Sanford I. Weill, Chairman of Weill Cornell's Board of Overseers, said, "This generous gift exemplifies the Belfer family's clear vision of the relationship between philanthropy, medical research and Weill Cornell Medical College's mission. It will significantly expand and strengthen Weill Cornell's Division of Hematology and Medical Oncology and allow us to launch the next era of breakthroughs in cancer research."

"This extraordinary gift will help us enhance and expand our cancer research and treatment programs with the goal of becoming a National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center," says Dr. Antonio M. Gotto, Dean of Weill Cornell Medical College. "It will help make possible the kind of translational research that can only take place in an academic medical setting such as ours, where some of the world's greatest physician-scientists can pursue a discovery from the bench to the bedside, from an abstract question in the laboratory to a successful therapy for our patients."

"Imagine getting vaccinated against cancer. Imagine having a cancer treatment strategy tailor-fit to your needs. Imagine scientists pinpointing cancer markers in order to prevent the development of disease. This gift helps put this goal and many others within reach," says Dr. Barbara Hempstead, co-chief of the Division of Hematology/Oncology and the O. Wayne Isom Professor of Medicine at Weill Cornell, and Attending Physician at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center.

The heart of the new Arthur and Rochelle Belfer Institute of Hematology and Medical Oncology will be translational research, building on Weill Cornell's existing strengths in the study and treatment of lymphoma, leukemia, myeloma, genitourinary cancers, aerodigestive malignancies and cancer prevention. The gift will also help the Division expand into key research areas, including solid tumor biology, cancer genomics and proteomics.

"The Division of Hematology and Medical Oncology has undergone significant change over the last 10 years, growing from a relatively small group of predominantly basic and translational scientists and a limited number of full-time clinicians, into a division with 30 research professionals and internationally recognized physician-scientists," adds Dr. David Nanus, co-chief of the Division of Hematology/Oncology and the Mark Pasmantier Professor of Medicine at Weill Cornell, and Attending Physician at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell.

This gift is a continuation of more than 20 years of Belfer family philanthropy, beginning with Arthur and Rochelle Belfer and extending now to the next generation, including Robert and Renee Belfer, Lawrence and the late Selma (Belfer) Ruben, and Jack and the late Anita (Belfer) Saltz. The family has already funded the world-class Belfer Gene Therapy Core Facility along with three professorships, and has supported programs as diverse as anti-bioterrorism, breast cancer research, brain tumor and epilepsy research, child development, glaucoma, in vitro fertilization, teen pregnancy prevention, women's health, and women's sexuality research and treatment.

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