TGen News & Press Releases : Businessman-philanthropist assists TGen-VARI study of rare cancer

TGen researcher named to Medical Advisory Board of Gula Foundation; Laboratory research bench at TGen named in memory of cancer fighter

PHOENIX, Ariz. - July 15, 2009 - The Marilyn B. Gula Mountains of Hope Foundation has donated an additional $50,000 to the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) to fight advanced stages of breast cancer.

The Foundation's most recent donation brings to $250,000 the amount it has raised for TGen. The Mountains of Hope Foundation was established in 2003 in memory of Marilyn B. Gula, who died of breast cancer in 2006 following a decade-long battle against the disease.

In addition, Dr. Heather Cunliffe, Head of TGen's Breast & Ovarian Cancer Research Unit, has been named to the Foundation's Medical Advisory Board.

And, a laboratory research bench at TGen was dedicated July 9 "In Loving Memory of Marilyn B. Gula."

The most recent contribution of $50,000 was matched with other donations to the TGen Foundation, the fundraising arm of the non-profit biomedical research institute. The funds will enable the hiring of a bioinformatician to help speed research in TGen's Molecular Characterization of Circulating Tumor Cells Project.

This project - directed by Dr. Cunliffe and Dr. Stephen P. Anthony, Chief Medical Officer of TGen Drug Development Services - aims to guide chemotherapy choices among women with Metastatic Breast Cancer, the most advanced stage of this disease.

Metastatic disease is when tumor cells have left the primary breast cancer site and form often-deadly tumors in other parts of the body. During this process, tumor cells can circulate through the bloodstream. Through genomic analysis of these "circulating tumor cells," or CTCs, researchers hope to guide the optimal treatment for each patient.

"I'm a big believer in hiring really talented people and giving them the tools that they need to do exceptional things. TGen fits that model, perfectly," said Phoenix businessman Allen Gula Jr., Chairman of the Mountains of Hope Foundation.

"They (TGen) are hiring some of the best scientists around. They have a very collaborative model. They have the best technology on the planet. And they do exceptional things," said Gula, who for decades was a senior executive in financial services businesses in Cleveland, Ohio, and in San Mateo and Palo Alto, Calif.

Michael Bassoff, President of the TGen Foundation, praised the work of the Gula Foundation.

"The latest donation from the Marilyn B. Gula Mountains of Hope Foundation will add enormously to the ability of TGen to turn discoveries in the lab into ways of helping breast cancer patients," Bassoff said. "I know I speak for breast cancer patients and their families throughout Arizona, and nationwide, when I say we are extremely thankful for the Mountains of Hope Foundation and its continuing generosity towards TGen's research."

All donations to the Mountains of Hope Foundation go to breast cancer research. Gula pays for all of the Foundation's overhead and administrative costs through a family trust.

"At the Foundation, we believe in investing with organizations that have the best chance of solving this very difficult problem. It's exciting that it (TGen) is in our own backyard," said Gula, whose organization also funds work at the University of California, San Francisco, and at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, the world's oldest and largest private cancer center.

Dr. Cunliffe joins three other respected doctors and scientists on the Mountains of Hope Foundation's Medical Advisory Board: Dr. Cliff Hudis, Chief of Breast Cancer Medical Service, Memorial Sloan Kettering; Dr. Hope Rugo, co-director of the Breast Oncology Clinical Trials Program and professor of medicine, UCSF Breast Cancer Center, San Francisco; and Dr. Cliff Reid, President and CEO, Complete Genomics, Mountain View, Calif.

"We're honored to have Dr. Cunliffe as the newest member of the Mountains of Hope Medical Advisory Board," Gula said. "Her expertise and unwavering commitment to the research and treatment of advanced breast cancer will be instrumental as the Foundation continues its mission of making inroads to improve the detection, treatment and management of this deadly disease."

Dr. Cunliffe said it is a privilege to be invited onto the advisory board. "The mission of this Foundation aligns with the goals of our research at TGen. We are both focused on finding rapid solutions for women with advanced stages of breast cancer, who are truly in a crisis situation."

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About Dr. Heather Cunliffe
Dr. Cunliffe received her Ph.D. from the Department of Biochemistry at University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand. She completed her postdoctoral training in the Cancer Genetics Branch of the National Human Genome Research Institute, National Institutes of Health, in Bethesda, Md., where her research focused on the role of hormones and growth factors on the development and progression of breast cancer. Dr. Cunliffe joined TGen in 2004. She holds an adjunct faculty appointment in the School of Life Sciences at Arizona State University, and is a Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Basic Medical Sciences, The University of Arizona College of Medicine-Phoenix in partnership with Arizona State University.

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About The Marilyn B. Gula Mountains of Hope Foundation
The Mountains of Hope Foundation (501-c3) was established in 2003 by Marilyn B. Gula, a native of northeast Ohio, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1996. Although controlled by powerful drugs, the cancer continued to recur until the drugs were ineffective and she lost her battle with this insidious disease on July 26, 2006. As a result, the Mountains of Hope Foundation was renamed "The Marilyn B. Gula Mountains of Hope Foundation" to honor her memory and continue the work she began. Based in Phoenix, every dollar donated is applied directly to funding highly regarded researchers across the nation who study advanced stages of breast cancer, with the hope of making inroads to improve the detection, treatment and management of this deadly disease. For more information, visit www.mountainsofhopefoundation.org

Press Contact:
Allen Gula Jr., Foundation Chairman
The Marilyn B. Gula Mountains of Hope Foundation
650-799-5485
[email protected]

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About TGen
The Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) is a Phoenix, Arizona-based nonprofit organization dedicated to conducting groundbreaking research with life changing results. Research at TGen is focused on helping patients with diseases such as cancer, neurological disorders and diabetes. TGen is on the cutting edge of translational research where investigators are able to unravel the genetic components of common and complex diseases. Working with collaborators in the scientific and medical communities, TGen believes it can make a substantial contribution to the efficiency and effectiveness of the translational process. TGen is affiliated with the Van Andel Research Institute in Grand Rapids, Michigan. For more information, visit: www.tgen.org.

Press Contact:
Steve Yozwiak
TGen Senior Science Writer
602-343-8704
[email protected]

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