Who We Are
The Walther Cancer Foundation supports and promotes interdisciplinary and inter-institutional cancer research both bench and clinical, the latter encompassing clinical trials as well as behavioral studies as part of our commitment to Supportive Oncology. Our goal is to help build cancer programs that provide tangible benefits by expanding the world’s scientific knowledge, by saving lives and by offering hope to patients and their families.
One of the Walther Cancer Foundation’s greatest strengths is its independence. The Foundation’s autonomy, both organizationally and financially, gives its leadership and board of directors the freedom to stimulate important bridge-building at the interfaces of cancer research.
The Walther Cancer Institute was created in 1985 and merged into the Walther Cancer Foundation in 2007 to become a private grant-making foundation.
Since its founding, more than $190 million has been invested in cancer-focused research.
Notable highlights include:
- In 2023, the Walther Cancer Foundation commits $10,000,000 to a Children’s Cancer Research Fund to create a perpetual source of funding for scientists at Indiana University School of Medicine, Riley Children’s Health and Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Comprehensive Cancer Center.
- In 2022, the Walther Cancer Foundation and Regenstrief Foundation commits gifts totaling $3,000,000 to create an endowed chair in cancer informatics at the Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Comprehensive Cancer Center. The jointly recruited chair holder will be a research scientist at the Regenstrief Institute and the cancer center and a faculty member at Indiana University.
- In 2019, the Walther Cancer Foundation commits $11,000,000 to a Bioinformatics-Molecular Genomics/Genetics endowment and program support to continue a collaboration between Indiana University and Purdue University. Support will amplify and expand the bioinformatics initiative as well as sustain the program.
- In 2019 the Walther Cancer Foundation commits $15,000,000 to the Indiana University Simon Cancer Center to facilitate the recruitment of their next cancer center director.
- Also in 2019, the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) together with the Walther Cancer Foundation create the Conquer Cancer – Walther Cancer Foundation Career Development Award in Palliative and Supportive Care in Oncology. Seven multi-year grants totaling $1,617,000 supported by WCF provides research funding to 7 clinical investigators focused on palliative and supportive care in oncology.
- In 2018, Indiana University School of Medicine (IUSM) names Dr. James Cleary as the director of the Walther Supportive Oncology Program; he will hold the Walther Senior Chair in Supportive Oncology. Dr. Cleary, a medical oncologist and palliative care physician, is recognized globally for his expertise in palliative care medicine and cancer pain.
- In 2017, the Walther Cancer Foundation makes an unparalleled commitment to supportive oncology to establish the Walther Supportive Oncology Program at the IUSM. The $14 million gift with an accompanying match from Indiana University builds on previous investments by the Foundation in palliative care and in behavioral oncology. This new award adds to support provided in 2015 to establish a total of five endowed chairs that will be used to recruit healthcare professionals and researchers who are leaders in supportive oncology.
- In 2017 the Walther Cancer Foundation commits a $10 million gift to be matched by Purdue University to the Purdue University Center for Cancer Research (PCCR). This transformative gift will help fund areas such as faculty recruitment and retainment, needed equipment, and research in such areas as drug discovery and development; breast, pancreatic, prostate and other forms of cancer; and the role obesity plays in the disease.
- The Walther Cancer Foundation Palliative and Supportive Care in Oncology Endowed Award and Lecture is established in 2017. This annual award presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Palliative and Supportive Care in Oncology Symposium recognizes a distinguished lecturer and leader with multiple, significant, and enduring contributions in oncology through the prevention, assessment, and management of cancer and treatment related suffering.
- Also in 2017, the Foundation provides the Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center (IUSCC) and the Regenstrief Institute resources to develop a broad research and translational science program in Cancer Informatics and Data Science that will enhance the collection, analysis, and integration of rich and complex clinical, genomic and population level data sets. This will accelerate the discovery and implementation of innovative approaches for preventing, diagnosing, treating, and ultimately curing cancer.
- In 2015, a major new effort begins to advocate supportive oncology. The Foundation provides $4M to support two new endowed chairs at the IUSM. A comprehensive, system-wide Supportive Oncology Program at the IUSCC will provide enhanced opportunities for innovative research and education in supportive oncology. The components of such a comprehensive, multidisciplinary supportive oncology program will provide a wide range of services to cancer patients and their families, create training opportunities for diverse caregivers to become proficient in supportive oncology, and conduct scholarly research to fill existing gaps in the field.
- Also in 2015, new funding establishes a unique inter-institutional shared bioinformatics resource that leverages the strengths of IUSCC and PCCR, to enhance the collection and analysis of complex molecular data sets linked with annotated clinical information so as to accelerate basic discovery, drug discovery and broaden the applications of precision therapeutics.
- In 2014, the Walther Cancer Foundation provides support to the Harper Cancer Research Institute (HCRI) to establish and amplify a unique partnership among HCRI, practicing oncologists in the South Bend, Indiana area and the clinical pathology laboratory for the region to provide genetic analyses of cancer tissue. So doing allows more precise treatment of patients in the area and allows accrual of characterized cancer tissue into a biobank for research uses.
- The Walther Cancer Foundation funds a program called Engineering Novel Solutions to Cancer’s Challenges at the Interdisciplinary Interface (ENSCCII) at the HCRI on the campus of the University of Notre Dame in 2013. Cancer research at HCRI takes place at the interface of disciplines such as biology, chemistry, engineering, mathematics, medicine, and physics. The goal of the ENSCCII Training Program is to establish the integrative training environment necessary to prepare a highly competent pre-doctoral and post-doctoral cancer research workforce.
- The Walther Cancer Foundation joins forces with Indiana University Health in 2012, Indiana’s largest healthcare system, and the IUSM to fund innovative approaches to improving palliative care interventions throughout the State through education of medical providers and the public.
- Global efforts begin in 2011. In partnership with the IUSCC, we begin supporting a new oncology institute in Eldoret, Kenya. The program is integral to the AMPATH program, the Academic Model Providing Access to Healthcare. The multi-faceted AMPATH Oncology Institute (AOI) will provide oncology care, research and training to people and hospitals in the region. The AOI mission is to be the premier cancer program in Sub-Saharan Africa, noted for excellence in cancer prevention, treatment and palliative care.
- Also in 2011, the HCRI at the University of Notre Dame, a collaboration between Notre Dame and the IUSM, begins the Advancing Basic Cancer program to stimulate multi-disciplinary cancer research by promoting novel integrative interactions between at least two research groups from distinct scientific fields. This includes the development of new high-quality training opportunities to recruit young scientists to cross traditional discipline boundaries and address unique questions in cancer research.
- In 2009, the Walther Oncology Physical Sciences and Engineering Research Embedding Program is funded. The program applies system-engineering principals to cancer prevention detection, treatment, and care delivery. Specifically, in clinics at the IUSCC, the program cross-trains science and engineering postdoctoral fellows from Purdue University and the IUSM. In addition, medical fellows and assistant professors from the IUSM are embedded in engineering and other science laboratories at Purdue.
- In 2007, a collaboration between the cancer centers at Purdue University and the IUSM begins to train the next generation of clinicians in engineering applications that can improve cancer diagnostics and patient care.
As we look forward, with patience and determination, the Foundation will support innovative ways to permeate and blur the boundaries that, often unintentionally, divide and defeat successful research. We will apply our funds in ways that institutions, scholars and caregivers can attain optimal balance between being competitive and collaborative, and between being discoverers of new knowledge and caring providers of new care modalities.