Category: Campaign Newsletter, Issue 7

$10 Million to Fight Prostate Cancer

May 20th, 2016 in Campaign Newsletter, Issue 7 3 comments

Shipley Foundation gift will fund research

Each year, more than 100,000 men diagnosed with prostate cancer in the United States undergo a prostatectomy, a surgical procedure that leaves most of them unable to function sexually and many of them incontinent. The majority would live just as long with no treatment at all.

It’s “Dark Ages” medicine, says BU Trustee Richard C. Shipley (Questrom’68,’72), who was diagnosed with prostate cancer 18 months ago and eventually sought out a new, less invasive treatment, called focal laser ablation. The successful technology investor and former CEO wants to see such humane, high-tech treatment become the norm for all men with prostate cancer. To help that happen, the BU trustee is giving the School of Medicine $10.5 million to create a prostate cancer research center on the Medical Campus and a website with information about treatment options.

“There are options, good options, that men don’t hear about,” says Shipley, “and I want to get that message out.”

The Shipley Prostate Cancer Research Center will focus on personalized medicine, finding genomic approaches to better determine which cancers are aggressive and need to be removed or radiated and which can be dealt with less aggressively.

“There are options, good options, that men don’t hear about, and I want to get that message out.” —Richard C. Shipley

“Research can provide a paradigm shift in how we diagnose and treat prostate cancer,” says Avrum Spira (ENG’02), director of the BU/Boston Medical Center Cancer Center. “There is a new, broader vision for what we can accomplish in prostate and other cancers in terms of precision genomic medicine.” Spira, the Alexander Graham Bell Professor in Health Care Entrepreneurship and a MED professor, says that in most cases, “we biopsy a prostate, look under the microscope, and unfortunately, we often don’t know what to do next because it’s often a low-grade lesion.” He says it’s almost always impossible to distinguish an essentially harmless form of the cancer from a form that may become aggressive. Such uncertainty leads to overtreatment and damage to quality of life.

“We are all very excited about this gift, which will catalyze research around determining the optimal treatment for a specific patient,” says Karen Antman, dean of MED and provost of the Medical Campus.

She says that $1.5 million of the gift, plus a $500,000 contribution from BU, will go toward building the Shipley Center labs in existing space on the Medical Campus. The gift, which comes through the Shipley Foundation, allots $400,000 a year for 15 years to fund research projects, such as developing genetic tests to determine the threat posed by lesions or blood or urine tests to screen high-risk individuals.

Shipley’s gift will also create an endowed professorship that will enable BU to appoint a world-class researcher to lead the University’s efforts in the field.

Shipley is the founder of Shiprock Capital, a private equity firm. Previously, he was president and CEO of Shipley Company, LLC. In 2008, Shipley gave BU $2.5 million to endow the Richard C. Shipley Professorship in Management at the Questrom School of Business, and in 2013 he gave $4 million to endow the Beverly A. Brown Professorship for the Improvement of Urban Health.