Hilton Foundation Funds Pancreatic Cancer Research

The Sally Edelman-Harry Gardner Cancer Research Foundation, a Hilton-based grassroots organization dedicated to finding cures for cancer, has awarded $50,000 grant to a pair of scientists working to better understand the mechanisms of pancreatic cancer.

Aram Hezel, M.D.

Aram Hezel, M.D.

Hartmut Land, Ph.D.

Hartmut Land, Ph.D.

Hartmut “Hucky” Land, Ph.D., chair of Biomedical Genetics and scientific director of Wilmot Cancer Center, and Aram Hezel, M.D., assistant professor of Medicine and gastrointestinal oncologist, received the funding to study a new potential target in pancreatic cancer that Land recently identified. Hezel will build upon Land’s laboratory findings to determine whether the new target is effective in treating the disease.

Each year, about 43,000 Americans are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, a deadly disease with few warning signs or symptoms until it has spread to other organs. Survival rates are poor. Pancreatic cancer has received significant attention in recent years after actor Patrick Swayze succumbed to the disease.

“Any advances that we can make to improve the treatment of pancreatic cancer are a major step forward,” says Richard I. Fisher, M.D., director of the Wilmot Cancer Center. “It’s wonderful to see this Foundation continue to partner with us to find cures.”

Land is an internationally recognized scientist who was among the first to discover that malignant cell transformation required multiple mutations in distinct cancer genes. Since then, he’s studied the cooperative nature of this process and the inner workings of cancer cell function.

Hezel has studied the genetics of pancreatic and biliary tract cancers and tested novel treatments  in preclinical settings. His research, including clinical trials in pancreatic and hepatobiliary cancers, is published in oncology and science journals.

The Edelman-Gardner Foundation has a nearly 40-year history of providing “seed grants” for novel cancer research. Scientists use the early results to secure additional grant funds.

In one five-year period, the foundation awarded $250,000 to Wilmot Cancer Center scientists who were able to conduct research and use the early results to pursue additional funds from government agencies or other foundations. That quarter-million in research dollars was turned into $7.6 million in additional funding.

The Edelman-Gardner Foundation started in the early 1970s with a change jar at George Edelman’s Arlington Restaurant and donations began flowing quickly when village postman Harry Gardner was diagnosed with cancer and later died in 1977. Shortly after that, Edelman’s wife, Sally, was diagnosed with cancer and died in 1982.

The commitment to funding research grew stronger and people organized golf, bowling and euchre tournaments, motorcycle and bicycle rides, book sales and bottle drives. Thousands of dollars were raised and Edelman and others formalized the effort in 1984 by creating the foundation. More than $800,000 has been raised to support research programs at the Wilmot
Cancer Center.

The Foundation Board of Directors includes Edelman, Karen Hermance, secretary, George Kauffman, treasurer, Robert Diedrich and John Kwiatkowski.


Thumbs Up:

  • To family and friends of former Gates police officer, James Marasco, who came together to celebrate his life and show their support during the fourth annual Marasco Memorial Golf Tournament Aug. 14 at Webster Golf Club. They raised $3,480 for the Samuel E. Durand Blood and Marrow Transplant Unit.
  • To owners of the MacKenzie-Childs store in Aurora, for hosting an Aug. 22 benefit that raised more than $1,600. A portion of the day’s sales was donated to support patient care  and cancer research and shoppers joined in a drawing for a $250 store gift card.
  • To family and friends who honored the life and wonderful memories of Linda F. Foster, with a fundraiser Aug. 26. They raised more than $3,100 for the Samuel E. Durand Blood   and Marrow Transplant Unit.
  • To friends and family of Jim Gall, who passed away in January, for hosting a memorial golf tournament Sept. 18 and donating $1,130 to support patient care.
  • To all who participated in a family carnival Sept. 27 at McDonald’s on Long Pond  Road, raising $770 to support people with oral, head and neck cancers. The event was held to celebrate Chris Wanjon’s survival.
  • To Phyl Contestable for donating her time to perform as ‘Reverend Mother’ during the ‘Humor is the Best Medicine’ show Oct. 1, which raised $3,285. The audience was left in stitches as she shared her unique sense of “nun” humor. Special thanks also to CMI Communications, Fickle 93.3FM radio, and Victoria Brzustowicz Design for donating their time and talents.
  • To Ernie Orlando for organizing an autograph session with baseball legends Joe  Altobelli and Johnny Antonelli during CollectorFest Monthly on Nov. 7. The funds will be used to support local cancer care and research.