Newswise — The Estate of Dana C. Wood and the Dana C. Wood Revocable Trust have provided a $750,000 gift to The University of New Mexico Comprehensive Cancer Center. The gift has been matched by the New Mexico Higher Education Department through its Higher Education Endowment Fund program. The UNM Comprehensive Cancer Center will use the gift and state matching funds to create a faculty endowment that Olivier Rixe, MD, PhD, will hold. Rixe is an international expert in early phase clinical trials.
Dana C. Wood, a native of Gallup, New Mexico, was filled with a joy for life, his brother Doug Wood and sister Dolly Delaunay recall. He loved computers, flying, animals and almost any pursuit that challenged him. “People enjoyed being around him,” Dolly says.
In high school, Dana learned to program computers with punchcards. “He was at the top of his class and got hooked on programming,” says Doug. Dana earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in civil engineering from UNM, where he became a Lobo Basketball fan for life. He worked for Bohannon Huston Engineering after graduation but his fascination with computers drew him to Bohannon Huston’s spin-off company, Diginetics. A highly skilled and greatly respected “codie,” or software programmer, Dana eventually led Diginetics. He later started Leadertech, a software firm that managed product registrations. Leadertech started in Albuquerque and expanded to Los Angeles.
In 2008, Dana sought treatment for a persistent pain in his back. The diagnosis was kidney cancer. He was treated at The UNM Cancer Center and in Pittsburg, but lost his battle in April, 2013. He left gifts to The UNM School of Engineering and The UNM Cancer Center to support engineering scholarships and cancer research.
The gift to The UNM Cancer Center supports a wide range of cancer research and treatment activities. Established to provide funds in perpetuity, the gift may be used to develop research programs, translate discoveries into treatments for cancer patients, and endow faculty. The UNM Cancer Center plans to use the funds for several activities, including the faculty endowment.
Rixe will be invested as The Dana C. Wood Endowed Chair in Cancer Therapeutics and Early Phase Clinical Research in July. Rixe was recruited to The UNM Cancer Center in June, 2014. He is an expert in new cancer drug development and brings unique knowledge in this area.
Rixe has extensive experience in “early phase” clinical trials research, which is the crucial link between research and treatment. Early phase clinical trials test new cancer drugs in people for the first time. The ability to manage such trials requires the highest levels of medical, scientific and ethical training and extensive experience in clinical research.
“Endowed Chairs denote a highly accomplished physician or scientist who has made and continues to make tremendous contributions,” says Cheryl Willman, MD, Director and CEO of The UNM Cancer Center. “They are a tremendous asset for the successful recruitment of world-class physicians and scientists to New Mexico. We are deeply grateful for the Wood family’s gift and the state’s matching funds. And we are thrilled to count Dr. Rixe among our preeminent faculty. All New Mexicans benefit.”
About Olivier Rixe, MD, PhDOlivier Rixe, MD, PhD, is a Professor in the Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Hematology/Oncology, at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine. He serves as the Associate Director for Clinical Research at the UNM Cancer Center. Trained as a medical oncologist, Dr. Rixe is internationally renowned for his work in Phase I clinical trials and as Principal Investigator for several neuro-oncology clinical trials. He was involved in the early development phases of many U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved agents, including oxaliplatin, camptothecins, and taxanes; and many targeted therapies including antiangiogenic compounds sunitinib, axitinib and VEGF-trap, and new immune therapies.
About the Dana C. Wood Endowment for Cancer Research at UNMThe Dana C. Wood Endowment for Cancer Research at The University of New Mexico was established to support cancer research and the delivery of patient care that may ultimately benefit the diagnosis, treatment, or eradication of cancers. The funds could be used in a broad and comprehensive approach in support of advanced cancer research and treatment.
About the New Mexico Higher Education Department Endowment Fund ProgramThe Higher Education Endowment fund is administered by the Higher Education Department. Money in the fund is appropriated to the department to be disbursed for endowment purposes, including endowed chairs, lectureships, professorships, scholarships for students, graduate assistantships and faculty development programs that will enhance the quality of public post-secondary education in New Mexico. For more information, visit http://www.hed.state.nm.us/.
About the UNM Comprehensive Cancer CenterThe University of New Mexico Comprehensive Cancer Center is the Official Cancer Center of New Mexico and the only National Cancer Institute-designated Cancer Center in a 400-mile radius. One of the premier cancer centers nationwide, the UNM CCC has 128 board-certified oncology physicians, forming New Mexico’s largest cancer care team. It treats about 60 percent of adults and virtually all the children in New Mexico diagnosed with cancer — more than 10,000 people— from every county in the state in more than 135,000 clinic visits each year. Through its partnership with the New Mexico Cancer Care Alliance, an “exemplary national model for cancer health care delivery,” the UNM CCC offers access to more than 160 clinical trials to New Mexicans in every part of the state. Annual research funding of more than $72 million supports the UNM CCC’s 132 cancer scientists. Working with partners at Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratories, Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute, and New Mexico State University, they have developed new diagnostics and drugs for leukemia, breast cancer, ovarian cancer, prostate cancer, liver and pancreatic cancer, brain cancer, and melanoma; garnered 33 new patents and 117 patents pending; and launched 13 new biotechnology companies since 2010. Learn more at cancer.unm.edu.