Burns and McDonnell makes $1 million donation to support KU Cancer Center

Burns and McDonnell, one of the largest and most successful engineering and design firms in the country, has made a gift of $1 million, the largest corporate gift to support the KU Cancer Center’s effort to achieve National Cancer Institute designation. It is also the largest gift ever from the Burns and McDonnell Foundation.

The gift will establish a clinical high-risk prostate cancer prevention program at the Richard and Annette Bloch Cancer Care Pavilion. The funds will be used to bring in key personnel for the program, as well as create an endowed fund, managed by KU Endowment, bearing the Burns and McDonnell Foundation name to provide support as the program grows.

“For more than a century, Burns and McDonnell has helped build infrastructure to improve the quality of life in this country," said Greg Graves, chief executive officer of Burns and McDonnell. "With this gift, we are building hope for prostate cancer patients throughout the Midwest. And, we want our gift to build momentum for more companies to support the drive for NCI designation.”

Graves sits on the KU Hospital Authority Board and is a member of the Cancer Funding Partners Council, a collaboration of civic and business leaders charged with raising money for the NCI effort.

The investment in prostate cancer is vital to the NCI effort, according to Roy Jensen, director of the KU Cancer Center.

“Prostate cancer, cancer prevention and cancer survivorship are all important issues to the National Cancer Institute. The program established by this gift strengthens the KU Cancer Center’s case to take to NCI,” Jensen said.

Jeffrey Holzbeierlein will direct the clinical high risk prostate cancer prevention program. He said the mission is simply to reduce the risk men have for developing prostate cancer.

“Prostate cancer affects one in six men in the United States," Holzbeierlein said. "This disease is the second leading cancer killer of men in the United States. Obviously, it is only useful to screen for early detection if one either has effective treatments for the disease or has prevention strategies to decrease a person’s risk for developing the disease. Fortunately, prostate cancer has both.”

Under the direction of J. Brantley Thrasher, the William L. Valk Chair of Urology Surgery, the KU Cancer Center’s prostate cancer program has been named one of 13 “Clinical Centers of Excellence” in the country by Urology Times, the only area program so honored.

Campus officials said Burns and McDonnell’s generosity is in character with the company and its leadership.

“Burns and McDonnell has been a leader in its industry and in the Kansas City area," said Bob Page, president and chief executive officer of the KU Hospital. "It has shown a clear vision of a healthier Midwest in making this gift. I have seen Greg Graves’ leadership first hand in taking charge of our cancer fund raiser, Treads and Threads, and in his role on our board. He is someone who understands businesses must play a role to help realize the health and economic benefits of NCI designation.”

The gift brings total private contributions for NCI designation since January 2009 to $38 million. The center's goal is $92 million. Barbara Atkinson, executive vice chancellor of the KU Medical Center and executive dean of the School of Medicine, hopes it will be an impetus for more corporate donations.

“Burns and McDonnell has stepped up to the challenge. We need others to come forward to make the investments necessary to meet our September 2011 application opportunity. This gift, and the others to follow, will have an impact on leading edge cancer care, clinical trials and research,” Atkinson said.

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Amanda Schwegler, assistant director, Center for Service Learning
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