Upstate News

April 14, 2008
Darryl Geddes 315 464-4828

Researchers net $20,000 for lung cancer study

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — A team of SUNY Upstate Medical University researchers has been awarded the first grant from the Michael E. Connolly Lung Cancer Research Endowment. The $20,000 award will fund a study to examine whether early stage lung cancer patients may benefit from additional drug treatments.

The endowment, created in 2006, memorializes Michael Connolly, a non-smoker who died of lung cancer in 2002 at age 39 after a 22-month battle with lung cancer. Michael Connelly’s widow, Penny and son, Ryan, established the endowment at SUNY Upstate to fund research that would lead to new treatments and improve survival rates for others diagnosed with lung cancer.

“Ryan and I are thrilled and honored to award the first grant from the Michael E. Connolly Lung Cancer Research Endowment,” said Penny Connolly. “Thanks to the generous support of all those who have contributed to the fund, we are able to move forward on providing new hope for lung cancer patients.”

Michael Connolly’s physician, Leslie Kohman, M.D., professor of surgery at SUNY Upstate and director of the Thoracic Oncology Program at University Hospital, called the grant award a “major milestone in lung cancer research at SUNY Upstate.”

“The research funded by the Connelly Endowment holds the promise of providing great benefit to our lung cancer patients,” Kohman said.

In the study funded by the Connolly Endowment, Drs. Ajeet Gajra, Chirag Shah and Sanjay Mukhopadhyay will review tumor biopsies of early stage lung cancer patients in hopes of finding prognostic markers that may react well to drug therapies similar to those used in patients with advanced lung cancer to inhibit metastatic cancer.

Research funding at SUNY Upstate earmarked for cancer currently exceeds $11 million, but much of it supports research into cancers other than lung, which is why the Connolly endowment is so vital to the research enterprise, Kohman said.

“Lung cancer kills more people than any other cancer, yet it gets less funding than other types of cancer research,” she said.

Michael Connolly’s long battle with lung cancer was nearly won thanks in part to ongoing research into novel treatments. Michael Connolly responded to a powerful drug he was receiving as part of a clinical trial. But as in nearly all cases of advanced lung cancer, the disease prevailed. He died Aug. 24, 2002.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths for both men and women. An estimated 173,770 new cases of lung cancer and an estimated 160,440 deaths from lung cancer will occur in the United States this year.

The Connolly Endowment, totaling more than $500,000 has received contributions from more than 225 donors, including individuals and corporations, from all across Central New York and the Southern Tier. It is expected to award grants for lung cancer research annually.

For more information on the Michael E. Connolly Endowment for Lung Cancer Research, call the Upstate Medical University Foundation at 315-464-4416.

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