Dana-Farber Cancer Institute receives $5 million gift to create the Edward P. Evans Center for Myelodysplastic Syndromes

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Largest single philanthropic commitment to MDS research and care in Dana-Farber history

A $5 million gift from the Edward P. Evans Foundation will create the Edward P. Evans Center for Myelodysplastic Syndromes (MDS) at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. The gift will help Dana-Farber in transformative collaborative research aimed at treating, preventing, and ultimately curing MDS. Dana-Farber has also committed institutional matching funds over the next five years to support the Center, the Center’s faculty, and MDS research within the Center.

MDS are a group of diseases in which the bone marrow makes too few healthy blood cells.  Patients with MDS often suffer from debilitating fatigue and may require regular blood transfusions. Some patients with MDS are also at risk for infection or bleeding due to low white blood cell count or platelet count, and at least 20% of patients with MDS will develop acute myeloid leukemia (AML).  The only possible cure for MDS is a stem cell (bone marrow) transplant from a healthy donor, but currently fewer than 10% of patients with MDS are able to undergo transplant due to advanced age or other medical problems.

Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center (DF/HCC) has deep research and clinical expertise spanning the entire spectrum of the MDS disease process: genetic predisposition to MDS, early pre-malignant clonal states, lower- and higher-risk MDS, post-MDS AML, and stem cell transplant. Dana-Farber investigators have MDS-specific expertise in population science/epidemiology, biostatistics, clinical trial development and conduct, and laboratory-based research.

“The Edward P. Evans Center for MDS at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute will be a nexus for discoveries in MDS and improvements in patient care that will help reduce the global burden of MDS,” said Laurie H. Glimcher, MD, president and CEO of Dana-Farber. “We are deeply grateful and encouraged by the support from the Edward P. Evans Foundation and are thrilled to provide a platform to support investigators at every level. As the only institution with both the deep research and clinical expertise spanning the entire spectrum of the MDS disease process, Dana-Farber is the ideal home for this Center, where we can accelerate progress.”

Dana-Farber investigators have a strong track record of major advances in MDS and related myeloid neoplasms. Some representative developments by Dana-Farber faculty include:

  • Leadership in MDS clinical trials, including a multicenter trial leading to FDA approval of the most widely used schedule of decitabine for MDS, one of three drugs currently FDA approved for treatment of patients with these diseases.
  • Discovery of the specific mechanism of action of the drug lenalidomide in a subtype of MDS characterized by acquired loss of the long arm of chromosome 5.
  • Numerous discoveries in genetic predisposition to MDS, including novel GATA2 and other predisposing inherited DNA mutations.
  • Leadership of the pivotal trial leading to the first drug approval in AML in two decades (midostaurin, approved by FDA in 2017) and contributions to the first drug approved for secondary AML and AML with MDS-related changes (CPX-351).
  • Discovery of genetic predictors of outcomes in MDS and in the allogeneic transplant setting.
  • Development of the first MDS-specific quality-of-life assessment instrument, QUALMS-1, which is being used to measure patient-reported outcomes in numerous clinical trials.

Benjamin Levine Ebert, MD, PhD, and David P. Steensma, MD, will lead the Center as Scientific Director and Clinical Research Director, respectively. Steensma will also serve as the Edward P. Evans Chair in MDS Research.

“Since 2011, the Edward P. Evans Foundation has contributed more than $66 million to medical research directed at improving outcomes and finding a cure for MDS patients,” said Michael D. Lewis, PhD, president of the Foundation. “Dana-Farber Cancer Institute is the ideal location for our newest Edward P. Evans Center for Myelodysplastic Syndromes, part of the Foundation’s next phase in progressing the field forward. The new center capitalizes on Dana-Farber’s world-renowned faculty, access to patients, and relationship with preeminent Boston-area research organizations.  We eagerly anticipate the flow of new discoveries that will benefit MDS patients.”

The Edward P. Evans Foundation’s benefactor, Mr. Edward P. Evans, was Chairman and CEO of various companies, including MacMillan Inc., a businessman, philanthropist, and horseman. Frustrated by the siloed nature of the work on MDS in terms of both treatment and research, Mr. Evans founded the Foundation to invest in transformative collaborative research aimed at treating, preventing, and ultimately curing MDS. Following Mr. Evans’ death in December 2010, the Foundation’s primary mission became supporting transformational and collaborative medical research in the areas of MDS and AML. Dana-Farber has a long history of receiving Discovery Research Grants and Edward P. Evans Fellowship grants across DF/HCC institutions. 

Dana-Farber faculty will serve on two steering committees for the Center. Members include David Steensma, MD, Benjamin Ebert, MD, PhD, Daniel DeAngelo, MD, PhD, Richard Stone, MD, Corey Cutler, MD, MPH, Jacqueline Garcia, MD, R. Coleman Lindsley, MD, PhD, Gregory Abel, MD, MPH, and Zuzana Tothova, MD, PhD. Timothy Graubert, MD of Massachusetts General Hospital will also serve on the committee.

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Myelodysplastic/Myeloproliferative Diseases
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