Cancer Research Program Receives $30 Million

Elsie and Henry Hillman at the opening of the cancer centerPitt and UPMC Hillman Cancer Center researchers will further advance their mission of cultivating novel cancer discoveries that improve care for patients around the world with a gift from the Henry L. Hillman Foundation.

The foundation has made a $30 million commitment — $3 million per year for 10 years — for continued support of the Hillman Fellows for Innovative Cancer Research Program, which was started in 2004 with a $20 million contribution from the late philanthropists Henry and Elsie Hillman.

“This remarkable gift, which will drive cancer research and discoveries, extends the life-changing philanthropic commitment and innovative vision that are the shining hallmarks of Henry and Elsie’s great legacy,” said University of Pittsburgh Chancellor Patrick Gallagher, who announced the gift during the University's Board of Trustees meeting on Sept. 27. “On behalf of the many University of Pittsburgh researchers and clinicians who are devoted to leading the way in cancer treatment and research, I want to thank the Henry L. Hillman Foundation for its ongoing and outstanding support.”

This investment by the Hillman Foundation will strengthen research that can lead to economic impact in the community. A recent Brookings Institution report about the potential of the Pittsburgh economy called for enhancing that pathway. 

The Hillman Fellows program provides seed funding to scientists and encourages partnerships with young researchers to cultivate novel anti-cancer methods that improve cancer treatment, detection and prevention worldwide. Since its inception, the program has directly supported the research of more than 100 scientists. The new funds also will be used to accelerate high-priority scientific research, such as linking novel cancer genomics and immunology to personalized patient care.

Chancellor Gallagher in a blue suit and blue and gold striped tie at a podium“The Fellows program has accelerated the move of cancer research from the bench to the bedside and helped to establish the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center as a model for others around the world,” said Stanley Marks, chairman of UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, which is one of the largest treatment networks in the country with more than 50 locations. “We have been able to recruit world-class cancer researchers and financially support their groundbreaking efforts, all because of the vision of Henry and Elsie Hillman.”

David Roger, president of the Hillman Family Foundations, said, “Having top quality research at the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center was very important to Mr. and Mrs. Hillman. They were both extraordinarily proud to be associated with the work of so many brilliant doctors and scientists who have been a part of the program.”

Robert L. Ferris, a past fellow who recently was named director of the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, said, “The Fellows program has been responsible for funding research at UPMC in stem cell biology, cancer vaccines and cellular therapies over the past 10 years. We are working toward groundbreaking immunotherapy and other discoveries that can cure some cancers and developing more effective treatments for this disease. Without this critical support from the Henry L. Hillman Foundation, this life-changing work would simply not be possible.”

The Hillman Fellows program is housed in the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, the region’s only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center. The research of the program’s investigators has spanned from basic to translational to epidemiologic studies, and primarily has focused on cancer immunology and immunotherapy, cancer risk, prevention and survivorship, and cancer stem cells.