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$1 million donation to boost lung cancer research

Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine recently received a $1 million gift from Michael and Elizabeth Klump to support ongoing research on lung cancer genome sequencing and personalized therapies led by Washington University medical oncologist Ramaswamy Govindan, MD.

The Klumps made the gift in honor of Michael’s father, Robert Klump, who was diagnosed with lung cancer two years ago and is under the care of Govindan, the Anheuser-Busch Endowed Chair in Medical Oncology and a professor of medicine at the School of Medicine. Their generosity was celebrated with a Dec. 22 ceremony at Siteman.

After experiencing hip and back pain, Robert travelled to Atlanta, where Michael and his family live, to see a specialist. Robert was diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer and was referred to Govindan at Siteman, who is treating Robert with pembrolizumab, an immunotherapy medication.

Washington University researchers at Siteman were the first to compare the DNA sequence of a cancer patient and the patient’s tumor to identify the underlying problem. The work was central to a subsequent national project, called The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA), to fully understand the molecular changes in cancer cells. Govindan’s group was one of the first to study alterations in the cancer genomes of lung cancer patients in detail. The Robert L. Klump Lung Cancer Research Initiative will help further Govindan’s work studying how to exploit the weaknesses in cancer cells using these genomic approaches.

“This is a great example of how philanthropic effort can be utilized to advance lung cancer research,” Govindan said. “And using the support received from donors, like the Klump Family, we will continue to pursue more expansive research projects through peer-reviewed funding from the National Cancer Institute or foundations.”

These donations help researchers generate the preliminary data they need to apply for funding from sources such as the National Institutes of Health. Govindan said, for every $1 his team receives, the researchers are able to get $5 in peer-reviewed funding.

Michael’s father, Robert, grew up in Perryville, Missouri, about 80 miles southeast of St. Louis. Michael’s mother worked at the School of Medicine as a certified registered nurse’s anesthetist and also taught at Barnes-Jewish Hospital.

“We have a strong connection to the area,” Michael said. “When I met Dr. Govindan, he really impressed me and taught me all about the research being done at Wash U. We hope our gift will benefit future patients facing lung cancer.”

Through their charitable foundation, the Klumps have given to organizations that advance educational and medical research initiatives, but this is their first gift to cancer research and first major donation in the St. Louis area.

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