of Medicine receives largest gift in its history
Mellon estate gives $20 million for prostate
School of Medicine has received its largest gift ever, and the
fourth-largest to the University, from the estate of the late
Paul Mellon, a noted philanthropist. The $20 million gift will
establish the Mellon Prostate Cancer Research Institute, which
will pioneer an interdisciplinary approach to research on prostate
who died in February 1999 at his home in Upperville at the age
of 91, was motivated by his gratitude for the care he received
from Dr. Jay Gillenwater, a U.Va. professor and former chair of
the urology department, as well as by the strength of U.Va.'s
prostate cancer program, estate executors said.
most recent gift will help fuel an all-out assault on prostate
cancer," said Dr. Robert M. Carey, dean of the School of
Medicine. "We are deeply grateful for Mr. Mellon's generosity
and inspired by his commitment to eradicate the most frequently
occurring cancer in men."
cancer accounts for one of every three cancers among American
men, according to the National Cancer Institute. Although early
detection and improved treatments have prompted a significant
decline in the death
rate from this disease, little is understood about the cause of
goal of the Mellon Center will be to understand how and why the
disease strikes some men and not others, to determine who is likely
to have cancers that need aggressive treatment, and to discover
therapies to prevent the onset or progression of the disease,
part of the center, a program will be created to identify the
genes involved in prostate cancer and to determine their function
and relationship to clinical outcomes.
"The University has been the beneficiary of Mr. Mellon's
thoughtful philanthropy on a number of occasions,² University
President John T. Casteen III said. "This gift to the School
of Medicine shows again his personal devotion to contributing
to the common good. His generosity will help to assure that cutting-edge
research at the University will push ahead a possible cure for
whom the New York Times called "the patrician collector who
tenaciously turned philanthropy into his personal art form,"
had a long-established relationship with U.Va. In June, the University
Library received more than 400 items from his renowned collection
of Virginia and American history.
Mellon Prostate Center will be co-directed by microbiologist Michael
Weber, director of the U.Va. Cancer Center, and Dr. William Steers,
chair of the department of urology.
cancer research at U.Va.
Dan Theodorescu, associate professor of urology who
holds the Paul Mellon chair of urologic oncology, and other
researchers developed a blood test to find residual prostate
cancer after surgery. The test is not only more accurate,
but it may also be quicker, less painful and less costly
than the current practice of removing and examining tissue
samples. Results of a pilot study using the new procedure
were published in the May 1999 issue of the Journal of Urology.
Researchers are now considering the test for other organs.
a $4.2 million NIH grant, microbiologist Michael Weber,
director of the Cancer Center, is studying how prostate
cancer progresses from a localized, slow-growing tumor to
one that develops rapidly.
Leland Chung is leading a team of researchers looking
for a vaccine for prostate cancer. The work focuses on signal
transduction, the process by which cells communicate with
their environment. The team is pursuing ways to prevent
messages that cause normal cells to divide uncontrollably
from getting through. In addition, his research team has
developed gene therapy for prostate cancer that holds promise
for preventing the spread, or even providing the cure, for
showed that arachidonic acid, a fatty acid found in meat,
dairy fat and egg yolks, but not in plant products, is a
powerful stimulus for prostate cancer growth in the test
tube. The team, led by Dr. Charles E. Myers, will
now try to find a drug to counteract this effect and bring
it to clinical trial.
A team led by Jin-Tang Dong has identified two genes
whose deletions are associated with the aggressive behavior
of prostate cancer. Comprehensive detection of genetic deletions
would better define the nature and behavior of a cancer,
Dong says, and would be useful in distinguishing aggressive
prostate cancers from those that are benign.