Dr. Nancy E. Davidson, a world-renowned breast cancer oncologist and researcher, wears many hats. At Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, she is senior vice president and director of the Clinical Research Division. At the University of Washington School of Medicine, Davidson is professor and head of the Division of Medical Oncology. And at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, Fred Hutch’s clinical-care partner, she serves as president and executive director.
Davidson now has another prestigious title that reflects her role as a bridge-builder across these cancer-research and treatment powerhouses: the Raisbeck Endowed Chair for Collaborative Research. The new chair was created to facilitate collaboration between oncology researchers at Fred Hutch and UW. Seattle philanthropists James and Sherry Raisbeck presented the chair to Davidson May 16 at a luncheon at Fred Hutch honoring their long history of support,
“I am thrilled to be the first recipient of this chair, which was made possible by two creative and innovative people, Sherry and James Raisbeck, who want to support creative and innovative research across Fred Hutch, UW, and SCCA,” said Davidson, who previously held the Endowed Chair for Breast Cancer Research at Fred Hutch. “This fund will make it possible to jump-start new cross-institutional initiatives to address our collective urgency to reduce the burden of cancer.”
By focusing on Davidson’s multiple leadership roles, the new Raisbeck Chair will provide her — and future chairholders — with a flexible source of funds with which to take advantage of collaborative opportunities as they arise. The chair will also support Davidson’s capacity to translate her unique perspective into insights that move from bench to bedside.
“Dr. Davidson’s chair is in many ways unique,” James Raisbeck wrote in an email. “First, although funded through Fred Hutch, it also brings together the talents of the University of Washington and Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. Second, it will act as a catalyst for the sharing of research and development in all three organizations. Third, it should form the basis of a new way of looking at endowed chairs.”
With their latest endowment, the Raisbecks became the first donors to endow three chairs at Fred Hutch. They also support three chairs at UW.
The Endowed Chair for Collaborative Research is only the latest expression of a long-standing relationship between Fred Hutch and the Raisbecks. They created the first-ever endowed chair at Fred Hutch, the Penny E. Petersen Memorial Chair for Lymphoma Research. Held for many years by the late Dr. Ollie Press, the chair now supports the work of bacteriologist Dr. Nina Salama, who studies a bacteria linked to stomach cancer and a rare type of lymphoma. The Raisbecks’ second endowed chair, the Raisbeck Chair for Pancreatic Research, is held by pancreas cancer expert Dr. Sunil Hingorani.
Salama studies Helicobacter pylori, a bacterium that can infect the stomach and lead to ulcers, stomach cancer and, more rarely, mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue, or MALT, lymphoma. The endowed chair enabled her to move in a new research direction and begin examining how H. pylori manipulates the immune system to allow for chronic infection, a necessary first step toward disease. Supported by the Petersen Chair, Salama and her team published preliminary data showing how the immune system first senses H. pylori, and they leveraged this work into new funding from the National Institutes of Health to study when and how the bacterium triggers cancer. The endowment funds also allowed Salama to recruit a new postdoctoral fellow to initiate this work.
With the support of the Raisbeck Chair for Pancreatic Research, Hingorani has expanded his pancreatic cancer studies. Based on the Phase 2 results of a randomized clinical trial testing PEGPH20, the drug he has developed to enhance the effectiveness of chemotherapy against pancreatic tumors, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the launch of a worldwide Phase 3 clinical trial. Hingorani also leads a Cancer Moonshot team studying the microenvironment, the cells and factors surrounding tumors, of pancreatic cancers and its influence on treatment effectiveness. Funding from the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network is allowing Hingorani’s team to further explore ways to target the microenvironment to treat pancreatic cancer.
The gift of an endowed chair provides sustained support that facilitates truly transformative research. Endowed chairs also help attract and retain the best researchers and enhance efforts to recruit the finest minds in the world. Endowments also provide donors an opportunity to establish a lasting legacy, as by design they are sustainable resources that are continually replenished by investment returns.
Sabrina Richards, a staff writer at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center, has written about scientific research and the environment for The Scientist and OnEarth Magazine. She has a PhD in immunology from the University of Washington, an MA in journalism and an advanced certificate from the Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program at New York University. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.