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State of Illinois Grants Fund Cancer Research Studies

August 29, 2006

CHICAGO - The State of Illinois has awarded Penny Severns Breast, Cervical and Ovarian Cancer Research Fund grants to Northwestern University to advance cancer research by two University researchers.

The funds from the Illinois Department of Public Health will support the work of Victor Levenson, M.D., and Brian Hoffman, two of 12 Illinois researchers from institutions receiving the grants to conduct breast, cervical and ovarian cancer research, it was announced Aug. 25 by Dr. Eric E. Whitaker, state public health director.

Levenson, research associate professor at the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University, received $65,000 through a Penny Severns grant for research into the use of a newly developed technique to establish a molecular signature of ovarian cancer that can be used for diagnosis of this disease, including its early detection.

Hoffman, professor of chemistry, received $50,000 through a Penny Severns grant for research using optical absorbance/fluorescence imaging as an emerging method of tumor detection and monitoring

Levenson said his project is the first step in development of a non-invasive assay for early detection of this disease, which will hopefully produce a screening test applicable to asymptomatic women. He said, “I want to emphasize the importance of the Fund's foresight in supporting high-risk, high-potential pilot studies. Without this type of support it would be impossible to develop innovative ideas that may significantly advance cancer care and improve the lives of thousands of cancer patients.”

Hoffman said, “New methods of screening for breast tumors are urgently needed and recent work has shown that optical imaging of breast tumors holds great promise of offering effective, safe, noninvasive and inexpensive breast-tumor imaging. These funds will facilitate our efforts to help in developing this approach.”

This research fund was established in 1994 and renamed in 1999 to honor the late state Sen. Penny Severns of Decatur, who died from breast cancer. Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich added ovarian cancer in the summer of 2005 to the program's mission and changed the fund name again to the Penny Severns Breast, Cervical and Ovarian Cancer Research Fund. The research fund is a special fund within the state treasury that is used for breast, cervical and ovarian cancer research grants. Revenue sources include general revenue funds, income tax contributions and gifts, as well as grants and awards from private foundations, nonprofit organizations and other governmental entities or persons. 

Grants are awarded to support research in areas related to breast, cervical and ovarian cancer prevention, etiology, pathogenesis, early detection, treatment and behavioral sciences. Research also may include clinical trials. Grant awards range from $35,000 to $65,000. Penny Severns grants this year total $700,000 statewide. Since fiscal year 1995, the Penny Severns Research Fund has financially supported 121 research projects.

“More than 2,500 mothers, sisters and daughters die each year in Illinois from breast, cervical and ovarian cancer. It's critical that we continue to research new ways to treat or even someday cure cancer. The Penny Severns Breast, Cervical and Ovarian Cancer Research Fund helps researchers develop and advance techniques for early detection, prevention, curing, screening and treatment of breast, cervical and ovarian cancers,” said Gov. Blagojevich.

The latest statistics show that 9,413 women in Illinois were diagnosed with breast, cervical or ovarian cancer in 2003 and that 2,684 women in Illinois died from these cancers that same year. It is projected that almost 10,000 women in Illinois will be diagnosed with breast, cervical or ovarian this year and it is estimated approximately 2,800 women will die.

“Better methods for early detection and more effective treatments for cancer are key to reducing the number of deaths due to breast, cervical and ovarian cancer,” said Dr. Whitaker.  “I'm honored to be awarding these grants, funded in part through Illinois taxpayer donations, to researchers committed to advancing the fight against cancer.”

Topics: University News