The Lustgarten Foundation fights pancreatic cancer: A strong voice against a silent killer

Issue 21, Summer/Fall 2013

Lustgarten Foundation

When Cablevision Systems Corporation Vice Chairman and Madison Square Garden Chairman Marc Lustgarten was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 1998, little was known about this deadly disease. At that time, the field of pancreatic cancer research was largely ignored, with only a limited number of investigators working in research relevant to the disease.

To help change that, Cablevision and its Chairman, Charles Dolan, and Chief Executive, James Dolan, established The Lustgarten Foundation, named for Marc before he died. Today, the foundation that Marc Lustgarten inspired has become America's largest private foundation dedicated to funding pancreatic cancer research.

Pancreatic cancer is among the most lethal of all cancers. It is estimated that more than 38,000 people will die from the disease this year alone. Of those diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, just six percent survive five years and most with advanced cancer die within a year. There are no early detection tests, no effective long-term treatments and, unless the cancer is surgically removed in its earliest stages, no cure.

"Pancreatic cancer is often labeled a silent disease because many times the signs and symptoms can go unnoticed until the cancer is in an advanced stage. Even when there are early signs and symptoms, they may be vague and easily attributed to another disease, which is why more research is so critical," said The Lustgarten Foundation Executive Director Kerri Kaplan. "Scientists are making tremendous progress in the field of pancreatic cancer research, and the funding the foundation provides will help them move even closer toward life-saving tests and treatments."

Based in Bethpage, NY, The Lustgarten Foundation has played an important role in the evolution of pancreatic cancer research, devoting more than $65 million to more than 175 research projects at more than 50 medical and research centers worldwide. The Foundation's efforts have helped contribute to the shift in the field of pancreatic cancer research from only a handful of researchers working on pancreatic cancer-related studies to a greater number of researchers, and finally to what it is today, a focused, collaborative effort of many researchers dedicated to finding a cure.

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As a result of research already funded by the Foundation:

  • Early detection tests are being developed.
  • The genetic makeup of this cancer is better known now than before.
  • The development of new therapies is underway.
  • Vaccines are being tested for treating pancreatic cancer.
  • More clinical trials are available for pancreatic cancer.
  • Families are being examined to determine which genes cause hereditary pancreatic cancer.

In 2012, The Lustgarten Foundation Pancreatic Cancer Research Laboratory was established at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory on Long Island, NY. The laboratory focuses exclusively on pancreatic cancer research, with initial studies centered on early detection, drug development and drug delivery.

"We all know how important tests like mammograms, PSAs and colonoscopies are in detecting cancers early on, which save lives, but there is no early detection test for pancreatic cancer," says Kaplan. "That's why we are actively funding much-needed research to help detect the disease earlier."