The Paula and Rodger Riney Foundation announced a gift of $7.8 million to Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University (Winship) to fund the Riney Family Multiple Myeloma Research Program Fund. The two-year project will support fast-tracked research projects at Winship in multiple myeloma, a blood cancer caused by malignant plasma cells that accumulate in the bone marrow.
Rodger Riney, founder of the brokerage firm Scottrade Financial Services, was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 2015. Rodger and his wife Paula Riney have made substantial gifts to the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and to Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston to accelerate research into multiple myeloma and improve outcomes for patients.
"Paula and I believe the best opportunity to cure multiple myeloma is to fund important research and researchers at multiple institutions, like Dr. Sagar Lonial at Winship. In addition, we have a commitment to generate cross-institutional research with the expectation that the collaborations will accelerate our collective goal of improving outcomes for patients with multiple myeloma," commented Rodger Riney. "Dr. Lonial and Winship have the same goal and importantly, that spirit of collaboration." Sagar Lonial, MD, Winship chief medical officer, chair of the Emory Department of Hematology and Medical Oncology, and the Anne and Bernard Gray Family Chair in Cancer, is an internationally recognized multiple myeloma expert.
"It is extraordinary to see this kind of personal commitment to advancing cancer research. We are deeply grateful to the Riney family for their generous support and I'm confident their gift will both enable and inspire our researchers to produce discoveries leading to more effective care," says Jonathan S. Lewin, MD, president, CEO and chairman of the board of Emory Healthcare, and Executive Vice President for Health Affairs, Emory University.
Multiple myeloma is not considered curable, but outcomes for myeloma patients over the past decade have improved significantly, offering hope for patients at all stages of their treatment. New drugs and treatment approaches have converted a disease with limited long term survival 20 years ago, to one that has more of a chronic illness model for many patients. Thanks to the robust myeloma team of researchers and physicians developed with Lonial's leadership, Winship has played a key role in the development, testing, and approval of all of these new treatments, including several recently approved immunotherapy drugs.
"Our outstanding Winship team will immediately deploy this generous gift to accelerate new strategies and innovative approaches in multiple myeloma. We expect that this work will lead to new treatments, more durable responses, and better patient outcomes," says Walter J. Curran, Jr., MD, Winship executive director, the Lawrence W. Davis Chair in Radiation Oncology and the Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar and Chair in Cancer Research.
For the two-year funding period, Lonial and the Winship myeloma team have proposed projects drawing on their demonstrated strengths in fundamental research in the underlying biology of multiple myeloma, translational research in the development of new treatments, and clinical research in understanding response rates and drug resistance, among other areas.
"I cannot tell you how excited and appreciative we are for this opportunity. We have and will continue to strive to improve outcomes and cure myeloma, as part of a larger community of researchers," said Lonial. "This gift is a transformative step forward for our program, and I am confident will pay out dividends for myeloma patients and the community. We are grateful for the confidence the foundation has shown in us."
As the National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated comprehensive cancer center for the State of Georgia, Winship pioneers discoveries in cancer prevention, detection, diagnosis, treatment, and survivorship. The Riney Family Multiple Myeloma Research Program Fund will engage faculty from all four Winship research programs: cancer immunology, cancer prevention and control, cell and molecular biology, and discovery and developmental therapeutics.