Three appointed to breast cancer chairs at Arizona Cancer Center endowed by Fenton L. Maynard gift

$5 million gift also provides breast cancer research endowments

TUCSON, Ariz. – Three Arizona Cancer Center researchers have been appointed to endowed chairs made possible by a generous estate gift from the late Fenton L. Maynard of Phoenix. The $5 million gift also is providing for two research endowments for Cancer Center members. Each of the Cancer Center’s five core research programs will benefit from the Margaret E. and Fenton L. Maynard Excellence in Breast Cancer Research Endowment.

“This generous gift from Fenton Maynard’s estate will provide an important boost to our research in our efforts to prevent and cure breast cancer,” said David S. Alberts, MD, director of the Arizona Cancer Center. “We are extremely grateful for the vote of confidence Mr. Maynard had in our center, and I have the highest confidence in our talented breast cancer research team whose work will benefit greatly.”

Appointed to the endowed chairs are:

Alison T. Stopeck, MD, director of the Clinical Breast Cancer Program at the Arizona Cancer Center and associate professor of medicine and hematology/oncology at the University of Arizona College of Medicine. Dr. Stopeck specializes in breast cancer treatment, research and prevention. She is the principle investigator on multiple clinical trials involving novel agents, prognostic markers, and predictors of response to therapy. Dr. Stopeck is currently researching circulating biomarkers for predicting responses to therapies targeting blood vessels (i.e. anti-angiogenic agents) and cellular receptors on tumor cells. She is also involved in the development of innovative imaging modalities to better determine a woman’s individual risk of breast cancer as well as provide earlier and safer ways to monitor responses to antitumor or chemoprevention agents.

Bernard W. Futscher, PhD is a professor of pharmacology and toxicology in the College of Pharmacy and scientific director of the Arizona Cancer Center’s genomics shared service. Dr. Futscher’s longstanding cancer research interest is in the area epigenetics -- the study of the control of cell identity and behavior. Dr. Futscher’s lab was the first to identify epigenetic inactivation of the breast cancer gene, BRCA1, as a common event in sporadic human breast cancer and its laboratory correlates. Subsequent research by the Futscher lab demonstrated that normal epigenetic mechanisms can control gene activity in specific cell types and disruption of these mechanisms occurs early in the development of human breast cancer. Dr. Futscher’s current research applies the knowledge of breast cancer epigenetics to the rational development of therapeutic interventions and biomarkers for disease prognostication.

Arthur W. Gmitro, PhD, co-director of the cancer imaging program at the Arizona Cancer Center and a professor of radiology in the Department of Radiology and professor of optical sciences in the College of Optical Sciences at the University of Arizona. Dr. Gmitro’s research work is aimed at the development and application of novel instrumentation for biomedical imaging. He has made significant contributions in the areas of magnetic resonance imaging and minimally invasive optical imaging. A major emphasis of his is current work is on the application of these imaging technologies to women’s cancers, including ovarian, cervical, and breast cancer. As leader of the AZCC Cancer Imaging Program, he is working with colleagues to implement and expand new developments in breast cancer imaging for improved diagnosis and treatment.

Research to be supported by the Maynard Endowment will be conducted by:

Amanda Baker, PharmD, PhD, research associate professor of medicine at the University of Arizona College of Medicine; director, translational research for Phase 1 and 2 therapeutic trials, and director, flow cytometry shared service at the Arizona Cancer Center. Dr. Baker is a molecular and translational pharmacologist. Her laboratory is working closely with the clinical breast cancer team at the Arizona Cancer Center to investigate biomarkers for cell death in the blood of patients with breast cancer which may be useful in early determinations of whether patient's tumors are responding to chemotherapy. In addition, Dr. Baker is working with molecular imagers to investigate magnetic resonance imaging techniques for use as biomarkers to predict and monitor response to investigational breast cancer therapies.

Patricia Thompson, PhD, assistant professor of public health in the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health. Dr. Thompson is a molecular epidemiologist whose research in breast cancer includes development of molecular marker based risk prediction models of early stage breast cancer to guide patient decision making about treatment. She also has an active research interest in chemoprevention of breast cancer targeting high risk patient populations using non hormone based therapies like non steroidal anti-inflammatory agents.

The new Margaret E. and Fenton L. Maynard Breast Cancer Chairs are three of 10 endowed chairs at the Arizona Cancer Center. Endowed chairs support faculty research activities. Awarded to a faculty member at the height of his or her career, an endowed chair is an acknowledgment of past performance and a commanding statement of expectations about future accomplishments. It is a compelling recruiting tool, and an effective means to retain the talent already on campus.

An endowment is a gift where the principal is invested in perpetuity to provide annual cash support. The chair holder can use the annual payout for a variety of purposes, including salary, research and general department support. A gift of $1 million or more is required to establish an endowed chair. The University of Arizona has 92 endowed chairs.

The Arizona Cancer Center is the state’s premier National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center. With primary locations at the University of Arizona in Tucson and in Scottsdale, the Center has more than a dozen research and education offices throughout the state and 300 physician and scientist members working to prevent and cure cancer. For more information, go to