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ACS receives $2.25M gift to create research professorship endowment

Wilmott family legacy gift will focus on pancreatic cancer.

The American Cancer Society announced this week a $2.25 million gift from Timothy Wilmott and Dr. Nancy Barna to establish the ACS-Wilmott Family Professorship in Pancreatic Cancer research endowment. This legacy gift will allow for the funding of one professor every five years with each grantee receiving a total of $400,000 over five years.

The Wilmott family made this generous gift in honor and memory of Tim’s mother and brother, who both passed away from pancreatic cancer. This new endowment will recognize seminal contributions that have changed pancreatic cancer research and/or oncology care and a professor’s track record of mentorship and leadership in the cancer research community. 

ACS research professorships are considered the most prestigious research grants our organization gives. ACS has funded 130 research professors since 1962 – and 10 have gone on to win science’s top honor, the Nobel Prize. 

"Symptoms of pancreatic cancer often do not appear until the disease has advanced, and there is currently no screening mechanism – the five-year relative survival rate is only 11%," ACS CEO Dr. Karen Knudsen said in a news release. “We must develop innovative strategies for prevention and early detection to increase survivorship in pancreatic cancer, and we are deeply grateful to the Wilmott family for their generous support and commitment to advancing pancreatic cancer research on behalf of cancer patients and their families.”

Each professor selected for the endowment’s prestigious funding will go through ACS' extensive scientific peer-review process with a proven track record of choosing the most promising and innovative science. Professors selected for the position are expected to continue to provide leadership in their research area, and the five-year term can be renewed once. 

“Advancements in research provide the best hope to expand understanding of how to prevent, detect, and treat pancreatic cancer,” Timothy Wilmott said in a news release. “Nancy and I are proud to partner with the ACS to ensure that the brightest minds and best ideas in pancreatic cancer research are funded and that we are all one step closer to a cure.”

These professors will lead the way in helping to find more effective ways to prevent, detect, and treat pancreatic cancer, which is currently the 10th most commonly diagnosed cancer in the US in men and women combined, and the third-leading cause of cancer-related deaths. 

The American Cancer Society estimates that 62,210 new pancreatic cancer cases will be diagnosed in the United States in 2022, and 49,830 people will die from the disease. Pancreatic cancer is often difficult to diagnose because there are no validated, specific tests that can easily and reliably find early-stage disease in people who do not show symptoms. Additionally, people with pancreatic cancer often do not have symptoms until the disease is advanced and treatment is more invasive. The 5-year relative survival rate of pancreatic cancer is 11%, and even for people diagnosed at an early-stage, the 5-year relative survival rate is only 42%.

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