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Donors step up with $86 million in early giving to end cancer as we know it

Thousands respond to Phil and Penny Knight’s unprecedented fundraising challenge
  • Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) gains significant momentum for Knight Cancer Challenge in first months of campaign
  • Thousands of donors from 47 states, D.C. and Canada contribute
  • Oregonians play leading role in early backing of vision, including a $200 million commitment from the state legislature

Thousands of donors in Oregon and beyond have responded to Nike Co-founder Phil Knight and his wife Penny’s fundraising challenge by giving just over $86 million to date in support of Oregon Health & Science University’s ambitious two-year, $1 billion campaign to revolutionize early cancer detection and treatment.

The Knights sparked the unprecedented fundraising effort to beat cancer last September when they pledged $500 million to OHSU’s Knight Cancer Institute if OHSU raised another $500 million by Feb. 4, 2016. The Knights are inspired by the institute’s vision to build on its knowledge of what drives cancer’s growth to develop new ways to detect the disease at its earliest, most curable stages. Early detection represents the largest unmet need in cancer care today.

More than 3,700 donations and pledges from individuals, businesses and organizations in 47 states, the District of Columbia and Canada have come in since the challenge was announced. Those donations include 20 gifts of $1 million or more. Last week, the Oregon Legislature also demonstrated a strong commitment to this vision by approving a $200 million investment to build two state-of-the-art facilities to house the scientists and clinicians that the Knight Cancer Institute will recruit to advance early detection.

The cumulative $1.2 billion in anticipated philanthropic giving and state investment will enable OHSU’s Knight Cancer Institute to accelerate breakthrough research to detect the biological triggers that signal cancer is developing. There is a direct correlation between the ability to detect a cancer early and patient survival rates.

“I am elated by the extraordinary outpouring of support and commitment we have seen in the early stages of the Knight Cancer Challenge, and it’s important for us to pause for a moment and say ‘thank you,’” said OHSU Foundation President Keith Todd. “From the generous $1 million gift we received early on from the Oregon Community Foundation, to the hundreds of dollars raised by local children through bake sales, we are seeing a sense of collective urgency around our vision to create more cures for more cancers, and donors’ confidence that we can get this done.

“This is an aggressive timeline for a campaign of this magnitude. But as we all know, cancer patients do not have time to waste. We are fighting for them, and Phil and Penny Knight have helped us create a new paradigm for success. We really are changing the game.”

The Knight Cancer Institute, led by Brian Druker, M.D., helped pioneer personalized cancer medicine. Druker proved it is possible to target and kill cancer cells while leaving healthy cells unharmed. This discovery of the cancer pill Gleevec ®, the first targeted therapy of its kind, has revolutionized cancer research and treatment.

Druker will use the Knight Cancer Challenge investment to expand his world-class research team by recruiting 20 to 30 top scientists from multiple disciplines to focus solely on early detection. This team will collaborate with clinicians who will help translate their discoveries into tests and treatments.

“OHSU and Oregon are on the forefront of turning cancer into a manageable illness, instead of a killer,” said OHSU President Joe Robertson, M.D., M.B.A. “The vision and the drive are there. We know the pathway to this goal. We just need the resources to get there.

“Those of us in the OHSU community are grateful to all who share this vision, and have stepped up in the early stages of our campaign with gifts of all sizes that will truly transform how we diagnose, treat and ultimately beat cancer.”

Oregonians have led support for the campaign in its early months, but the vision is inspiring donors nationally; about 30 percent of the money raised so far has come from outside the state. Schoolchildren have held bake sales and sold hand-made crafts to raise money. Businesses have hosted fundraising events and matched gifts from their employees. Individuals touched personally by cancer have donated to honor loves ones.

Wayne Drinkward, president and chief executive officer of Hoffman Construction, was in the audience the evening the Knights made their pledge. For him, the impetus to help was immediate. He and his company set up a program that multiplies any employee donation to the Knight Cancer Challenge 4-to-1, an effort that has raised more than $1.4 million to date.

“The challenge is big enough that it’s going to require everyone to get involved and to be committed,” Drinkward said. “This is an opportunity that hasn’t happened before and may not exist in the future, so the time is today.”

Eight-year-old Genevieve Olson Rocha of Southeast Portland is motivated to help, too. Her grandfather is undergoing cancer treatment at the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute. She created and sold rainbow bracelets “to help my grandpa and everyone sick with cancer,” raising $710 for the Knight Cancer Challenge.

Intel Corporation, which has long collaborated with OHSU on a variety of research and health-care technology advances, has pledged to donate nearly $2 million worth of equipment, technology and personnel services in 2014 and 2015 to support the campaign’s initiatives.

"We are proud to be a part of this bold vision to end cancer as we know it," said Eric Dishman, an Intel fellow and general manager of Intel Healthcare Solutions. "In addition, we'll continue to look for emerging projects related to the Challenge where Intel's advanced technology can support the groundbreaking scientific research at the Knight Cancer Institute."

“As we’ve seen from our ongoing collaboration with OHSU, extreme scale solutions – everything from systems to software and services – can make a critical impact on advancing scientific research and the future goal of delivering truly personalized healthcare,” said Steve Pawlowski, Intel Senior Fellow and general manager of Intel’s Data Center Group Pathfinding. “With our contribution of technology and personnel to the Knight Cancer Challenge, Intel is honored to be a part of OHSU’s drive to eliminate cancer.”

Visit the Knight Cancer Challenge for more information and profiles of some of the many donors to the campaign.

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