A $1 million gift has established the Laura J. Fogarty Endowed Chair for Uterine Cancer Research, Cleveland Clinic’s first endowed chair supporting research into the causes and treatment of uterine cancer.
The Fogarty chair will be held by Ofer Reizes, Ph.D., a researcher in the Lerner Research Institute’s Department of Cellular & Molecular Medicine.
The gift to establish the chair was given by Laura Fogarty and her husband, Bob Fogarty, a partner in the Cleveland law firm of Hahn Loeser & Parks. The couple, who reside in Pepper Pike, cite a desire to advance treatments for women with recurrent and metastatic uterine cancer and to shed light on the disease, which is not well-publicized or well-funded.
“I am extremely grateful for the outstanding care I have received at Cleveland Clinic these past six years in treating my uterine cancer,” Mrs. Fogarty said. “We are excited to endow this first-ever chair at Cleveland Clinic to support uterine cancer research – a disease in which there are 60,000 new cases and 10,000 deaths annually in the United States.”
Reizes’ current research focuses on gynecological cancers.
The standard of care in uterine and other gynecological cancers is platinum-based chemotherapy drugs such as cisplatin, which causes widespread toxicity and is not particularly effective, as the cancers tend to recur after treatment. The high level of recurrence led Reizes and his team to investigate the involvement of cancer stem cells.
Cancer stem cells (sometimes called “bad” stem cells) are aggressive cancer cells that are difficult to kill and tend to linger after treatment. Remarkably, Reizes found that when treated with cisplatin, cancer stem cells are actually activated rather than killed.
Together with his colleague Justin Lathia, Ph.D., Reizes identified several proteins on the surface of cancer stem cells that protect the cells from cisplatin chemotherapy. They hope to block these receptors to keep cancer stem cells at bay and allow cisplatin to do its job of killing cancer cells. With the generous gift from the Fogarty family, Reizes will also investigate how the state of these receptors can be used as a prognostic tool for oncologists to predict which patients will respond well to cisplatin.
“I am incredibly honored and grateful for this gift,” Reizes said. “It will allow us to expand upon our earlier discoveries, build the first uterine cancer research program in the Lerner Research Institute and to form strong collaborations with the Women’s Health Institute at Cleveland Clinic, with the ultimate goal of improving treatment for the thousands of women with uterine cancer.”
An expert in the biological relationship between obesity and cancer, Reizes’ earlier research found that the fat tissue hormone leptin promotes tumor and cancer stem cell growth.
Reizes joined Cleveland Clinic in 2006 from Procter & Gamble Pharmaceuticals, Inc. He received a Ph.D. in molecular pharmacology at UT-Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at The Children’s Hospital Boston and Harvard Medical School. He holds several leadership roles in the Lerner Research Institute, including director of research core services and director of skills development for the NIH-funded Center for Accelerated Innovations at Cleveland Clinic. Dr. Reizes resides in Shaker Heights.
The Fogarty chair was established as part of Cleveland Clinic’s Endowed Chair Matching Program. For more information about the program or supporting disease-based research at Cleveland Clinic, please contact Heather Huston Barkley, executive director of development, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 216-445-1038.