January 11, 2023

Gifts from Walther, Regenstrief foundations create cancer informatics chair at IU Simon Comprehensive Cancer Center

Gifts totaling $3 million will create an endowed chair in cancer informatics at the Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Comprehensive Cancer Center.

The chair was created through gifts from the Walther Cancer Foundation Inc. and the Regenstrief Foundation Inc. The jointly recruited chair holder will be a research scientist at the Regenstrief Institute and cancer center and a faculty member at Indiana University.

Cancer informatics aids researchers in analyzing huge amounts of data — often called “big data” — that can help identify those at risk of developing cancer, optimize prevention and detection, improve outcomes, and identify the most effective treatments.

Data can also be used to help researchers identify health disparities and inequities in cancer care and identify ways to lessen the impact on individuals with historically minoritized racial and ethnic identities. Data on where people live, their educational backgrounds, and their economic stability — conditions that play a role in people’s health and quality of life — provides valuable information to researchers and clinicians that can ultimately be used to benefit people.

“This chair is a wonderful example of how big things can come about through identification of mutual interests among several parties,” D. Craig Brater, MD, president and CEO of the Regenstrief Foundation and vice president of programs at the Walther Cancer Foundation, said. “This chair will enable researchers to better understand the biology of cancer and also to address issues of equity in cancer care.”

Rapid developments in technology have given rise to the copious amounts of data that exist. Organizing and storing that data, developing analytics to mine that data, and producing information beneficial to researchers and clinicians is an enormous undertaking. Data ranges from that contained in electronic medical records (EMRs) to data generated from clinical, basic and translational population research.

The incoming chair will lead the effort in collecting data accurately, effectively and ethically, while joining an already strong group of researchers at IU and Regenstrief in bioinformatics, data science and statistics.

“Regenstrief Institute research scientists have a long history of leveraging big data to support discovery, leading to better outcomes for patients at the individual and the population levels,” Susan Hickman, PhD, interim president and CEO of Regenstrief Institute, said. “We are fortunate to have partners who are both generous and visionary, enabling us to endow a chair focused specifically on cancer informatics that will invigorate collaboration and innovation in this critical area.”

“I am grateful for the extraordinary partnership with the Regenstrief Foundation and the Walther Cancer Foundation that led to the creation of this chair,” Kelvin Lee, MD, director of the IU Simon Comprehensive Cancer Center, said. “We routinely generate enormous data sets, but the information needs to be effectively organized and analyzed to make a real difference. With these gifts, we’ll be able to recruit an expert who can lead us through the complexities of informatics and position IU as a leader in the developing field of cancer informatics.”

About the Walther Cancer Foundation Inc.
Since its founding in 1985, the Walther Cancer Foundation has invested more than $182 million in cancer-focused medical research, and in research and education aimed at supporting cancer patients and their families. More than $100 million of that support has benefitted programs at the IU Simon Comprehensive Cancer Center. Those have included investments in the research of early career scientists, the field of bioinformatics and in supporting research and medical education aimed at helping cancer patients.

About the Regenstrief Foundation Inc.
Since its founding in 1969, the Regenstrief Foundation has invested more than $185 million in innovative, applied research that allows health care systems to improve effectiveness, efficiency, quality and equity in the delivery of health care. More than $145 million of that support has been directed to the Regenstrief Institute to support informatics, data analytics and transformative research to improve health care.


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