Newswise — Taking a big step toward making Kansas City a premier global pediatric research innovation hub, The University of Kansas Cancer Center and Children’s Mercy Hospital have announced four first-of-their-kind endowed chair appointments that will help eliminate childhood diseases around the world. The endowed chair positions focus on Genomics, Health Outcomes, Hematological Malignancies and Immunotherapy.

Made possible by $10 million in philanthropic support from four individual donors and four foundations, including unique gift matches from Donald J. Hall and the Hall Family Foundation, these Children’s Mercy leadership positions will have joint University of Kansas (KU) faculty appointments.

The new endowed chair positions, and the collaboration they promote, have been a key consideration for the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in its current evaluation of The University of Kansas Cancer Center for Comprehensive Cancer Center designation as emphasis on pediatric cancer research and treatment has grown. NCI is reviewing KU Cancer Center’s application and will make its Comprehensive Cancer Center announcements later this year. KU Cancer Center received NCI designation in June 2012, the first step in achieving the nation’s highest standards in cancer research and improved care and treatment.

Leaders at both the cancer center and Children’s Mercy stressed the significance of the endowed chairs to the institutions’ integrated pediatric research efforts, enhanced clinical care for children, advanced pediatric academic development and a shared goal to save children’s lives here and across the globe.

“For our Children’s Research Institute, this is a game-changer, allowing us to offer stellar recruitment packages to attract the best and brightest pediatric research scientists to Kansas City. It’s a privilege to collaborate with KU Cancer Center in this important effort,” said Tom Curran, PhD, FRS, Children’s Mercy’s Chief Scientific Officer and Executive Director of the Children’s Research Institute, a Children’s Mercy entity established in July 2015.

Dr. Curran joined Children’s Mercy in February 2016 after an exhaustive national search. His career includes positions with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis and with Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) where he led distinguished, internationally recognized research in brain development and pediatric brain tumors.

“These joint chair appointments are the latest in our endeavor to combine the resources of our powerhouse institutions so that young cancer patients can benefit from a deeper pool of cancer specialists,” said Roy A. Jensen, MD, Director of The University of Kansas Cancer Center. “This is another step forward to unify and strengthen our pediatric treatment and research efforts.”

Dr. Curran said the philanthropic support that made the new endowed chairs possible is helping to put Kansas City on the map as a place where families come to find answers when their children are battling life-threatening illnesses.

“The support we’ve received from generous donors who share our commitment to children’s health made these positions possible. It’s humbling,” he said. “Because of our donors, we can recruit world-renowned scientists who will make discoveries and contributions to pediatric research that could eliminate many of the childhood cancers known today. Imagine families from around the globe coming to Kansas City for innovative cancer treatments. Imagine our local and regional families receiving innovative treatments developed right here before they are widely available. Nowhere else can you find the tremendous community support we have here.”

Recruitment is currently underway for these four new endowed chairs:

DeBruce Foundation Endowed Chair in ImmunotherapyMade possible by Paul DeBruce and the DeBruce Foundation with a matching gift from the Hall Family Foundation.

Stanley H. Durwood Foundation Endowed Chair in Health OutcomesMade possible by a grant from the Stanley H. Durwood Foundation, Trustee Charles J. Egan, Jr., and a matching gift from Donald J. Hall.

Roberta D. Harding and William F. Bradley, Jr. Endowed Chair in Genomic ResearchMade possible by Roberta D. Harding and William F. Bradley Jr. with a matching gift from Donald J. Hall.

Schutte/Speas Endowed Chair in Hematologic MalignanciesMade possible by the Victor E. and Caroline E. Schutte Foundation Trust E, David W. Frantze and Bank of America, N.A., Co-Trustees; and the Victor E. Speas Foundation, Bank of America, N.A., Trustee.