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Donor-Supported Research

A personal experience often is the catalyst for private gifts 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.

Philanthropic giving often kick-starts the contributions of exceptional, early-career scientists and advances early ideas that are too “risky” to earn support from governmental sources.

Some donors attach very specific uses to the dollars while others give with the only restriction that cancer center put the funds where they will have the biggest impact. Vanderbilt-Ingram holds true to our donors’ wishes, and uses outside peer review to help prioritize the projects based on scientific merit.

In 2005, Jim and Janet Ayers gave $10 million to help Vanderbilt University scientists find early markers for colorectal cancer that could improve diagnosis and potentially save lives.

That gift established the Ayers Institute and has yielded an impressive return: identification of protein “signatures” of the genetic mutations that drive the nation’s second leading cancer killer after lung cancer.


When Waddell Walker Hancock founded the A.B. Hancock Jr. Memorial Laboratory for Cancer Research 40 years ago at Vanderbilt, she was determined that the right combination of imagination, perseverance and scientific talent could win the fight against cancer.

Hancock Lab researchers have earned many national honors and 13 patents for their studies of the role of the COX-2 enzyme in the progression of cancer and as a target for prevention and early detection.

The T.J. Martell Foundation became an important partner with the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center in 1993, when the Martell Foundation established the Frances Williams Preston Laboratories. These “laboratories without walls” were created in honor of Frances Preston, the late music industry icon and former president of the Martell Foundation's board and served as an important cornerstone in the creation of the then-new Vanderbilt Cancer Center.

The generous support from the Robert J. Kleberg, Jr. and Helen C. Kleberg Foundation has played a pivotal role in Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center's ability to impact cancer discovery for nearly two decades.

Due to a long-term investment in basic and translational cancer science, support from the Robert J. Kleberg, Jr. and Helen C. Kleberg Foundation has enabled Vanderbilt to emerge as an international leader in the early detection of cancer and precision cancer medicine—matching the right therapy to the right patient at the right time.

Amy Baker was a media executive, entrepreneur, and advocate, whose famously open arms (and open door) made her home a nexus point connecting thought-leaders from across the worlds of media, politics and philanthropy. She was a dedicated supporter of breast cancer research at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, along with her family.