Emerson, AT&T give $7.5 million to Siteman Cancer Center

Innovative, high-priority research initiatives by Washington University scientists at the Alvin J. Siteman Cancer Center are now under way thanks to a $7.5 million grant from Emerson and AT&T.

Emerson’s Charitable Trust and the AT&T Foundation are contributing $5 million and $2.5 million, respectively. This commitment will generate an additional $15 million for these initiatives through matching support from Washington University School of Medicine, BJC HealthCare and the Siteman Cancer Center.

“We are deeply grateful for this generous gift to the Siteman Cancer Center,” says Mark Wrighton, chancellor of Washington University in St. Louis. “Two of our leading corporate citizens are paving the way for advancing the fight against cancer in the St. Louis region and proving their commitment to the health of our community.”

Emerson and AT&T each have a strong presence in the area. Emerson is a global manufacturing and technology company based in St. Louis, and AT&T is the world’s largest communications holding company, with a St. Louis-based workforce of 9,000.

The first project supported by the grant will be Siteman’s research in endometrial cancer. The Emerson-AT&T grant will supply significant funding to the Specialized Program of Research Excellence (SPORE) in endometrial cancer, which was established in 2009 with initial funding from the National Cancer Institute.

Endometrial cancer, which forms in the tissue lining the uterus, is the most common gynecologic cancer. Historically, endometrial cancer has been an underfunded and understudied area of women’s cancer research, even though its incidence and deaths from the disease continue to increase.

The SPORE in endometrial cancer brings together Washington University experts in genomics, diagnostics and developmental therapeutics to tackle research projects that can be translated quickly into improved detection and treatment of this type of cancer. This research involves both cancer patients and populations at risk for cancer.

“Research at the Siteman Cancer Center takes advantage of the latest scientific and technological developments to further the understanding of cancer,” says David Farr, Emerson chief executive officer. “We believe this offers tremendous promise for better treatment of this disease, which touches so many individuals and families in the St. Louis region.”

The Emerson-AT&T grant also will support the BRIGHT (Bridging Research with Imaging, Genomics and High Throughput) Institute. The BRIGHT Institute uses state-of-the-art imaging that looks at living cells in real time, combined with other technology and genomics to better understand the many complex changes that transform a healthy cell into a cancer cell. The goal is to speed the translation of these insights into better cancer diagnostic techniques and treatments.

John Sondag, president, AT&T Missouri, is excited to be part of advancing cancer research.

“We are proud to partner in this effort to improve cancer care through support of pre-eminent cancer research in the region,” Sondag says. “It is our hope that the Emerson and AT&T gift will inspire others to give generously to further this important work.”

Timothy Eberlein, MD, Siteman director and Spencer T. and Ann W. Olin Distinguished Professor, says Emerson and AT&T are models of forward-thinking community support.

“Their support of Siteman is a prime example of their dedication to giving back to our community,” Eberlein says. “The Emerson-AT&T grant will further St. Louis’ role as home to a nationally recognized, robust cancer research and treatment program.”

Siteman Cancer Center encompasses the combined cancer-related programs of Washington University and Barnes-Jewish Hospital. It is the only cancer center within 250 miles of St. Louis designated as a Comprehensive Cancer Center by the National Cancer Institute.

It has locations at Washington University Medical Center on South Kingshighway, at Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital, Barnes-Jewish St. Peters Hospital and has plans to open a facility in south St. Louis County in 2012.

Washington University School of Medicine’s 2,100 employed and volunteer faculty physicians also are the medical staff of Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals. The School of Medicine is one of the leading medical research, teaching and patient care institutions in the nation, currently ranked fourth in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Through its affiliations with Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals, the School of Medicine is linked to BJC HealthCare.