Newswise — Baltimore-area commercial real estate developer Erwin L. Greenberg and his wife Stephanie Cooper Greenberg have pledged a $15 million gift to create the Johns Hopkins Greenberg Bladder Cancer Institute. Their gift is part of a $45 million co-investment with Johns Hopkins University, which will draw on the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center’s multidisciplinary research teams, and will include faculty from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine’s Department of Radiation Oncology and Molecular Radiation Sciences, the Brady Urologic Institute, and the Departments of Pathology and Surgery.

The Greenberg gift, which is the largest designated bladder cancer research gift ever given to Hopkins, was made through the Erwin and Stephanie Greenberg Foundation, whose philanthropy focuses on issues of poverty, education, and medical research.

“We are so very grateful to the Greenbergs for this transformational gift, which supports our shared vision of saving lives with an institute dedicated to developing innovative research and treatments for bladder cancer patients,” says William Nelson, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Kimmel Cancer Center.

Bladder cancer is, arguably, the invisible cancer. Despite its prevalence and toll, bladder cancer commands strikingly little public attention and media coverage as compared with other cancer types; funding for bladder cancer research is similarly skewed. An intensive program in bladder cancer research and treatment is urgently needed to improve the standard of care available to patients at Hopkins, across the nation, and across the globe – this founding gift provides that unparalleled opportunity.

“Bladder cancer is not as well-known among the general public as other cancers,” says Theodore R. DeWeese, M.D., chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology and Molecular Radiation Sciences. “This new institute will provide needed resources to increase awareness, education, and new research and treatments related to this disease.”

Erwin L. Greenberg serves actively on several non-profit boards, including the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center’s National Advisory Board, and Stephanie Cooper Greenberg serves on the Advisory Board of the Johns Hopkins University Berman Institute of Bioethics.

“Stephanie and I have been committed to cancer programs for many years. We recognize that there are many ways we could focus our resources but wanted to concentrate on one of the least supported cancers. We’re excited to be part of creating a comprehensive bladder cancer initiative that will bring new resources for patients and could ultimately save thousands of lives,” says Erwin Greenberg.

Bladder cancer is one of the most common genitourinary cancers in adults. The World Health Organization estimates 330,000 cases worldwide, with more than 74,000 new cases and 15,000 deaths in the United States alone. Annual costs of bladder cancer in the United States alone approach $4 billion. While surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation can be used to treat the disease, current treatment protocols are often invasive and newer, “bladder-sparing” treatment techniques require additional improvement before they can be broadly employed to benefit patients.

The Johns Hopkins Greenberg Bladder Cancer Institute will serve as the hub of an institutional and international community of researchers who share a commitment to advancing the scientific understanding of bladder cancer and improving its treatment. Drawing upon the extraordinary resources available at Johns Hopkins and working with physicians at other world-class centers, the Institute will continuously and rapidly elevate the state of the science in bladder cancer, moving ever closer toward the goals of preventing, effectively treating, and ultimately curing bladder cancer,” said Greenberg.

According to Johns Hopkins officials, no other institution in the world houses a similarly collaborative program with this expansive scope and intensive focus on bladder cancer. The Institute will begin formal operations in 2014.

May is national bladder cancer awareness month. Learn more about bladder cancer signs, symptoms and current treatment options.