Memorial Sloan Kettering (MSK) Cancer Center in New York City has announced the launch of the Marie-Josée and Henry R. Kravis Cancer Ecosystems Project. Made possible by a gift of $100m USD from the Marie-Josée and Henry R. Kravis Foundation, aims to unite research teams from across the institution to explore interconnected elements that contribute to the relapse of cancer, which is the key driver of cancer deaths.
“We are profoundly grateful to Marie-Josée and Henry R. Kravis for their generosity, which positions MSK to lead the next generation of advances in cancer research as we tackle the formidable challenge of metastasis,” said Craig Thompson, president and CEO of MSK, MD, President and CEO of MSK. “The Kravis Cancer Ecosystems Project will benefit countless people with cancer and generations to come with innovative new therapies and treatment options and offer hope where it has never existed before.”
According to the center, there have been advances over the past 10 years that have changed how cancer is understood and treated by identifying genetic changes associated with the disease. Researchers have learned that not all cancers have an actionable genetic mutation and that to address the disease, research must move beyond genetics to understand a tumor’s “ecosystem” including various aspects of the relationship between tumors and the host tissues.
Led by Joan Massagué (first incumbent of the Marie-Josée and Henry R. Kravis Foundation Chair and director of MSK’s research arm the Sloan Kettering Institute, the Kravis Cancer Ecosystems Project will work to create new therapies borne from a deeper understanding of both the intrinsic drivers of cancer (including genes) and emerging insights about the environment that nurtures and sustains these dangerous cells. The effort will approach cancer as a systemic disease, starting in a single location but reliant on conditions in the body to thrive, grow, and spread.
“Over the past decade, MSK has become a leader in cancer genomics and precision medicine, identifying scores of cancer-associated mutations and pioneering therapies that target them,” said Massagué. “This new initiative seeks to understand cancer within the context of the body, ultimately rewriting what is possible in terms of knowledge, discovery, and breakthrough therapies.”
The Marie-Josée and Henry R. Kravis Cancer Ecosystems Project builds on the Kravis family’s history of philanthropy toward MSK over the years. The couple behind the foundation has a history of supporting the development of new treatments and furthering understanding cancer cell biology; in 2005, another donation established the Marie-Josée and Henry R. Kravis Chair in Human Oncology and Pathogenesis at MSK; Charles Sawyers—chair of MSK’s Human Oncology and Pathogenesis Program, has been the incumbent of this first Kravis Chair since its inception.
In 2014, another $100m USD gift from the foundation helped establish the Marie-Josée and Henry R. Kravis Center for Molecular Oncology (CMO). Considered to be one of the most advanced genome-sequencing programs for cancer in the world, the CMO’s work involves furthering research on genetic mutations that drive cancer.
“We are honored to be able to continue our support of science and research at MSK through this initiative,” said Marie-Josée Kravis, who serves as vice-chair of the MSK Board. “Researchers at MSK, HOPP, and the CMO have already learned so much about cancer at the genetic level. We want to build on this work in order to create greater understanding of cancer’s relationship to the body and yield transformative treatments for people around the world.”