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Pew Charitable Trusts and Fannie E. Rippel Foundation Give Fox Chase Cancer Center Key Support for Prevention Research Facilities

PHILADELPHIA (December 14, 1999) -- Start-up money from the Fannie E. Rippel Foundation of Basking Ridge, N.J., and a major grant from The Pew Charitable Trusts of Philadelphia are providing crucial funding for two new centralized scientific facilities at Fox Chase Cancer Center. The $350,000 grant from the Rippel Foundation and the $1.5 million grant from Pew will contribute to the Center's effort to advance the science of cancer prevention.

One new facility funded by the grants will be devoted to genomics-the study of genes and their function. The facility's state-of-the-art equipment and computer technology will permit scientists to detect the presence or absence of specific genes in individuals and to determine precise structural variations among genes.

The second facility to be established by the grants will be for bioinformatics, the use of advanced computing techniques to manage and analyze biological data. Bioinformatics is particularly important to genomics research because of the large amount of complex data it generates.

According to Fox Chase president Dr. Robert C. Young, genomics is best understood as the 21st century's molecular road map to the human body. The genetics of the past has concentrated on individual genes as they have slowly been identified. Genomics encompasses the entire genetic blueprint-the genome-of human or other life.

By 2003, scientists expect the international Human Genome Project to have identified virtually all of our 100,000 genes, decoding the complete sequence of our three billion subunits of DNA. This knowledge will speed identification of many more genes associated with specific cancers and other diseases.

As a result, such genes will be useful as diagnostic tools to detect cancers earlier and to identify healthy people at risk of a cancer that may be avoided by preventive medicine or other therapies. Genomics will also reveal thousands of new biological targets for drugs and give scientists innovative ways to design new drugs and vaccines. These medicines may range from traditional chemicals to biologics such as proteins and potentially gene therapy.

"Applications of genomics will permit the rapid analysis of blood or tissue samples for thousands of genes simultaneously, providing patients and families with timely information rather than weeks of waiting for test results," said Young.

"However, to realize the enormous potential of the genetic revolution for improving care of cancer patients and high-risk people, we need to enhance our research infrastructure," Young pointed out. "Our centralized facilities for genomics and bioinformatics will be used widely by many scientists and physicians at Fox Chase."

The genomics facility will include a genotyping laboratory with the newest generation of equipment to determine the exact DNA sequence of subunits of a gene.

"This resource will be invaluable for screening large populations for hereditary cancer genes and for investigating complex genetic variations among individuals," said Young.

Another key aspect of the genomics facility is DNA microarray technology, which uses glass "chips" to hold thousands of gene segments that can be visualized by a computer. Because genes in a blood or tissue sample will bind to the corresponding genes on the chip, researchers can analyze thousands of the sample's genes at once.

Funds from the Pew grant will also help upgrade the Center's nuclear magnetic resonance facility for basic research, established in the 1980s to use magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) for studying molecular structure. The newest application of MRI technology, known as magnetic resonance microscopy, will become a tool for scientists to study genetic events in a laboratory setting.

Fox Chase Cancer Center has received support from The Pew Charitable Trusts throughout its history. The new $1.5 million grant is the second grant Pew has made to the Center recently. In 1997, the Trusts gave $2 million toward construction of the new Prevention Pavilion currently nearing completion on the Fox Chase campus.

The Pew Charitable Trusts, a Philadelphia-based national and international foundation with a special commitment to Philadelphia, supports nonprofit activities in the areas of culture, education, the environment, health and human services, public policy and religion. Through their grant making, the Trusts seek to encourage individual development and personal achievement, cross-disciplinary problem solving and innovative, practical approaches to meet the changing needs of a global community.

The Fannie E. Rippel Foundation also has a long record of giving to Fox Chase, ranging from a first-time grant in 1962 for laboratory renovation to a 1995 grant to establish the biotechnology core facility.

The Rippel Foundation was established with the residuary estate of Julius S. Rippel of Newark, N.J., to promote long-term philanthropic benefits. Rippel, who was orphaned as a boy, had prospered as an investment dealer and remained active in his community until his death in 1950. Named in memory of his wife, the Rippel Foundation is based in Basking Ridge, N.J., and has awarded grants totaling more than $90 million since its incorporation in 1953.

Fox Chase Cancer Center is one of 37 National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer centers. Its activities include basic and clinical research; prevention, detection and treatment of cancer; and community outreach programs.

Fox Chase Cancer Center, part of the Temple University Health System, is one of the leading cancer research and treatment centers in the United States. Founded in 1904 in Philadelphia as one of the nation’s first cancer hospitals, Fox Chase was also among the first institutions to be designated a National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center in 1974. Fox Chase researchers have won the highest awards in their fields, including two Nobel Prizes. Fox Chase physicians are also routinely recognized in national rankings, and the Center’s nursing program has received the Magnet recognition for excellence four consecutive times. Today, Fox Chase conducts a broad array of nationally competitive basic, translational, and clinical research, with special programs in cancer prevention, detection, survivorship, and community outreach.  For more information, call 1-888-FOX CHASE or (1-888-369-2427).

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