Wine Tasting Event Set Stage for $3M Gift to Battle Glioblastoma

More than 200 people attended the 6th annual wine tasting and silent auction benefit April 30 for the UC Brain Tumor Center to sample wines, bid on auction items and support brain tumor education and research.  The center also announced  a $3 million gift that will propel brain tumor research in Cincinnati.

The gift from the Anna and Harold W. Huffman Foundation will create an endowed chair and dedicated research program at the Brain Tumor Center, a center of excellence within the University of Cincinnati Gardner Neuroscience Institute and the UC Cancer Institute. Both institutes are part of UC Health.

The objective of the center’s research efforts is to drive new treatments for glioblastoma multiforme, the most aggressive type of brain cancer.

“This transformational gift will ultimately allow us to translate promising findings from the laboratory into patient therapies,” said Ronald Warnick, MD, Medical Director of the Brain Tumor Center and the John M. Tew, Jr., MD, Chair in Neurosurgical Oncology.

For the Anna and Harold W. Huffman Foundation, the gift is very personal.  In October 2014 one of its trustees, The Reverend Dr. Larry Paul “LP” Jones, was diagnosed with a glioblastoma.  LP, who is also pastor emeritus of Mt. Washington Presbyterian Church, is hopeful that the gift will help people diagnosed with glioblastoma live a quality life.

“While the gift likely won’t help LP, we hope others will benefit,” said The Reverend Dr. Nancy Turner Jones, LP’s wife and foundation president, who also serves as Priest-in-Charge of St. Barnabas Episcopal Church. “Harold and Anna were very generous people.  They have done so much for our communities. In 2011, for example, the 22-acre Huffman Farm was donated to the City of Fairfield along with a $550,000 gift to create an interactive park for children. The park opened in 2012 and has brought joy and education to thousands of young people.”

Celebrating a transformational gift at the Wine Tasting Event, from left: Ronald Warnick, MD, The Reverend Dr. Larry Paul “LP” Jones, The Reverend Dr. Nancy Turner Jones, and David Plas, PhD. Photo by Dan Davenport / UC Academic Health Center.

Like the Huffman Farm, the $3 million gift to the Brain Tumor Center will have a far reaching impact for many years to come.  The funds will be used in two ways.  The Anna and Harold W. Huffman Endowed Chair in Glioblastoma Experimental Therapeutics will be established with $2 million.  The chair will benefit a proven researcher with funding from the National Institutes of Health, who will be charged with developing a nationally recognized and funded glioblastoma research program.

David Plas, PhD, below, has been named the first chair holder.

“Dr. Plas is one of the country’s most respected cancer researchers,” said Dr. Warnick.  “He is the ideal scientist to lead this new program.”

The remaining $1 million will be used to create The Glioblastoma Therapeutics Research Fund, which will support the research efforts of Dr. Plas and his team.

After the gift was announced, Dr. Plas expressed gratitude from his entire team.  “Like all of the Brain Tumor Center researchers here tonight, I’ve dedicated my career to finding and developing therapeutic opportunities in cancer.  With the support from the new chair, we will work together to focus our combined years of expertise in cancer research on ways to better treat glioblastoma.”

This is the third endowed chair to be established by the UC Brain Tumor Center since its inception in 2008.  Others include the Tew Chair in Neurosurgical Oncology and the Harold C. Schott Endowed Brain Tumor Molecular Therapeutics Chair.

“It is fitting that we celebrate this incredible gift at our annual Wine  Tasting Event,” said Richard Seal, a brain tumor survivor, founder of the event, and co-chair.  “Each year it brings together brain tumor survivors, clinicians, researchers, caregivers and friends.  It is awesome that we are all hearing this exciting news together.”

Perhaps Dr. Plas summed it up best:  “This is a great recognition of the community’s support of the Brain Tumor Center.  As researchers, we are inspired and grateful for the opportunity to do this important work. ”

— Tom Rosenberger

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