Detroit Foundation Supports Research into Rare Blood Cancer

Heard of myelodysplasia? Yeah, we hadn’t either. It’s blood cancer, which is already enough to make anyone a little weak-kneed. Then add in the fact that it usually progresses, after awhile, to acute myeloid leukemia, and the fact that it’s pretty rare (only 10,000-20,000 cases currently in the U.S.) and you’ve got an emerging nightmare cancer scenario.

Detroit-based developer Joseph Dresner fought myelodysplasia and won, in 2002, and his experience inspired him toward philanthropy in 2010. Though he passed away in 2012, his eponymous foundation is continuing to serve his charitable legacy. To that end, the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit earliers this year announced a five-year, $5.3 million gift from the Dresner Foundation for research on blood-related cancers and services for patients.

Okay, this isn't exactly big breaking news. But it's another interesting example of what's going on in healthcare philanthropy, where it seems we learn about another new funder all the time. 

The gift will be disbursed over the course of five years, and the funds will be used to create an endowed chair, recruit scientists and research fellows, create a patient registry and tissue bank, and establish a Patient Assistance Fund. Helping low-income cancer patients pay for medications, transportation, and other expenses is a big priority.

This isn’t the Dresner Foundation’s first gift to the institute. Since 1998, the foundation and the Dresner family have committed more than $10.4 million here. The foundation was established by Vera and Joseph Dresner, and after Joseph’s successful treatment by Charles A. Schiffer, head of the multidisciplinary malignant hematology team at Karmanos, he made a $5 million donation in honor of Schiffer to create the Joseph Dresner Family Clinic for Hematologic Malignancies & Stem Cell Transplantation in 2010.

"This grant will help recruit additional physicians with unique research skills to help bring new clinical trials and treatment options for patients with myelodysplastic syndrome, leukemia, and other blood cancers, enhancing the critical work being done at Karmanos," said Schiffer, who will serve as the first Joseph Dresner Chair for Hematologic Malignancies. "It will support the creation of a tumor tissue bank for research purposes and the data management resources to correlate the research findings with clinical outcomes."