Bloomberg, others donate $125M for new cancer institute

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BALTIMORE (AP) – Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and others are donating $125 million to create a cancer-fighting institute at Johns Hopkins University focused on the immunotherapy, which uses patients’ immune systems to destroy cancer cells, the school in Baltimore said Tuesday.

Vice President Joe Biden was scheduled to attend a formal announcement of the Bloomberg-Kimmel Institute for Cancer Immunotherapy Tuesday. Biden, whose son Beau died from brain cancer last May, is leading a White House “moonshot” effort to speed progress on cancer cures. Immunotherapy is a central element of the Obama administration’s proposed $1 billion program.

Bloomberg, a 1964 Johns Hopkins alumnus, and philanthropist Sidney Kimmel, founder of Jones Apparel Group, each donated $50 million, the university said in a statement. More than a dozen other supporters contributed another $25 million, the school said.

“Ending all cancer would rank among humanity’s greatest achievements, and immunotherapy is bringing that dream within reach,” Bloomberg said in the statement. A longtime Hopkins benefactor, he has given $1.2 billion to the school since he graduated.

The new donations will be used mainly to fund research, with a focus on melanoma, colon, pancreatic, urologic, lung, breast and ovarian cancers, the school said. The funds also will enable the school to recruit more scientists and invest in technology development, the school said.

Kimmel has contributed $157 million to Johns Hopkins since 2001. The school’s cancer center is named after him.

“Having been committed to cancer research for more than 20 years, it simply thrills me to know that the scientists at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center see a new light at the end of the tunnel,” Kimmel said in the school’s statement.

The new institute’s director, Dr. Drew Pardoll, said immunotherapy holds potential for curing all types of cancer. An immunotherapy drug, Keytruda, was credited with helping former President Jimmy Carter’s cancer regression after he was diagnosed with melanoma. In December, Carter, announced that doctors had found no evidence of the four lesions discovered on his brain last summer and no signs of new cancer growth.

In a study published last May, Dr. Julie Brahmer of Johns Hopkins reported that the immunotherapy drug Opdivo may improve survival for the most common form of lung cancer. Tumors shrank in almost 20 percent of Opdivo patients versus about 12 percent of the others, her study found.

Dr. Lynn Schuchter, a University of Pennsylvania melanoma expert who has been involved in other Keytruda research, said in May that Keytruda works in about 40 percent of melanoma patients.

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