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Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer CenterVanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center


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Gift from Donna and John Hall bolsters cancer research

John and Donna Hall of Lexington, Ky., endowed the Donna S. Hall Chair in Breast Cancer at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center to support the research efforts of an exceptional cancer investigator in the breast cancer program.

Donor Supported Research

Donor's Gifts Support Creative People and Ideas

A personal experience often is the catalyst for a private gift of millions that will allow cancer scientists to do everything from prove the value of an untested idea to harvest tissue samples that will be stored and used for years in research studies.

"The individual will come in perhaps with a very personal experience, or with an experience of a family member," explains Jennifer Pietenpol, Ph.D., director at Vanderbilt-Ingram. "Based on what happened during their treatment, they may want to fund cancer to recruit people and accelerate research."

Some donors attach very specific uses to the dollars – "we're very true to that," says Pietenpol. But other donors – Pietenpol cites the Ingram Foundation as one example – give with the only restriction that cancer center put the funds where they will have the biggest impact. Vanderbilt-Ingram uses outside peer review to help prioritize the projects based on scientific merit, she explains.

Unlike governmental funding from the National Cancer Institute and other agencies – public support from tax dollars – private money is often used to advance early ideas that are considered a bit riskier to support, Pietenpol says.

"It accelerates discoveries," and often kick-starts the contributions of exceptional, early-career scientists, explains Pietenpol. Government money, on the other hand, most often goes to support research that already has proven itself with some promising results.

"We have the opportunity now to make breakthroughs that we never had before," she says.​