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On Monday, more than 250 people gathered at the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology for the Abramson Cancer Center’s annual “state of the union” event to discuss the center’s progress to the community. This year, however, was particularly marked by a recent donation from the center’s namesakes.

In front of guests including Penn President Amy Gutmann, Madlyn and Leonard Abramson announced a $25.5-million gift to the center, adding to their contribution totaling over $140 million.

Abramson Cancer Center Director Craig Thompson said faculty, leadership council members of the Cancer Center, Penn School of Medicine graduate students and training post-doctoral students, as well as other members of the Penn community attended the event. Apart from the announcement of the donation, the event included an overview of the cancer center, as well as discussions of current research programs targeting brain cancer, lung cancer, melanoma, pancreatic cancer and prostate cancer.

According to Thompson, the center began in 1997 as a partnership between Penn and the Abramson Family Foundation, with the intent “to start a dedicated research institute on the Penn campus dedicated to recruiting faculty and engaging in cancer research … to bring a bench-to-the-bedside kind of care.”

Thompson added that this would be achieved by means of incorporating “new and transformative” investigators and cancer research, including a wide range of programs. “These programs include investigations into therapeutic vaccines, targeted gene therapies, and advanced surgical and radiation therapies that span a wide range of cancer diseases,” Dean of the School of Medicine Arthur Rubenstein wrote in an e-mail.

According to Rubenstein, the cancer center is a "multidisciplinary unit" that draws from various institutions and schools at Penn in order to provide patient care and foster "research that leads to advances in treatment for patients and families in the Philadelphia region and around the world."

Although the Abramsons began their contributions to the center in 1997 with a $100 million donation, the institute was established in 1972, when President Nixon launched a “national war on cancer” and the National Institute of Health began awarding center that “engaged in comprehensive cancer research and care.”

Because of its government-related establishment, the center receives federal funding. According to Thompson, the center currently receives the second-largest grant on campus, worth over $50 million, to “facilitate cancer research.” However, it also relies on contributions from donors, such as the Abramson family.

Additionally, the Abramson Cancer Center receives funding from Penn through its “variety of other philanthropic programs” including donations “to Penn as a university and to the center directly,” Thomson said.

He called the institute a “matrix cancer center” because it draws membership from various schools at Penn, including the School of Veterinary Medicine, the School of Dental Medicine, Wharton, the Annenberg School for Communication, the School of Nursing and the School of Engineering and Applied Science.

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