The Keck School of Medicine of USC has announced a $24 million gift from media executive and philanthropist Sumner M. Redstone to support cancer research.
The research will be directed by oncologist David Agus, professor of medicine at the Keck School of Medicine and director of the USC Center for Applied Molecular Medicine and the USC Westside Prostate Cancer Center.
The donation is part of more than $100 million in previously announced charitable grants that Redstone has awarded to fund initiatives in the United States and abroad. His contributions have funded research and patient care advancements in cancer, burn recovery and mental health at several major nonprofit health care organizations and have provided support for groups that care for impoverished children in Southeast Asia.
Redstone recently donated more than $1 million each to medical research programs at Autism Speaks and to fund scholarships at Harvard College, Harvard Law School and Boston Latin School.
USC has received a portion of the Redstone gift in the form of charitable grants. The remainder of the pledge will be donated over the next three years.
“David Agus is not only an accomplished scientist who is literally changing how we think about cancer, but is also a remarkable physician who brings tremendous skill and compassion to his work with patients,” Redstone said. “I was fortunate to meet Dr. Agus shortly after I was diagnosed with prostate cancer and since that time, I have benefitted from his expertise. He quite literally saved my life, as he has done for many others.
“It is a privilege to be able to contribute to his groundbreaking work now under way at USC’s Keck School of Medicine, which has not only become an important center for outstanding patient care, but also for excellence in clinical cancer research,” Redstone added.
Agus said, “Sumner is one of the most remarkable people I’ve ever met; it continues to be an honor to be involved in his care. Here is a man who was diagnosed with an aggressive form of prostate cancer, and used the diagnosis as a rally call to help advance the cause of cancer research. It’s impressive to watch him fight this disease head on, as well as make a philanthropic donation toward curing cancer that will benefit generations to come.
“We are working on new treatments for prostate cancer, and this tremendous philanthropic gift from Sumner allows our team to think outside of the box,” Agus added. “He gives us free rein to think about the world of health care in a different way, and he pushes us to be more entrepreneurial by focusing on incremental gains and taking risks in areas where there are breakthrough opportunities.”
Keck School of Medicine dean Carmen A. Puliafito expressed appreciation for the gift. “This extraordinarily generous gift from Sumner Redstone will boost Dr. Agus’ exciting research program, which we believe has the potential to make a revolutionary impact on cancer therapy,” he said.
Agus is co-leader of the National Cancer Institute-funded Physical Sciences in Oncology Center at USC, which aims to bring physical science researchers, including physicists and mathematicians, together with biological scientists, in hopes of creating new paradigms with which to approach and treat cancer. Agus is a member of the NCI-designated USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center faculty.
Agus’ research focuses on the application of proteomics and genomics for the study of cancer and the development of new cancer therapeutics. These advanced technologies reveal valuable information regarding the on and off switches of cancer and the various factors involved in cancer origins, progression and response to treatment. Agus’ clinical responsibilities include the development of clinical trials for new drugs and treatments for cancer.
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