John and Karine Begg

Philanthropist | 2016

Though pancreatic cancer ranks as the fourth leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States, research about the disease has remained chronically underfunded. For this reason, the impact of John and Karine Begg’s support of the pancreatic cancer tissue bank at the Mass General Cancer Center—the largest in the world—cannot be overstated.

The Beggs, inspired by the care and treatment John has received at Mass General since his pancreatic cancer diagnosis, made their first gift to the pancreatic research team in 2014 and have continued to provide funding. Led by Carlos Fernández-del Castillo, MD, director of the Pancreas and Biliary Surgery Program and clinical co-director of the Tucker Gosnell Center for Gastrointestinal Cancers, the tissue bank team studies the molecular mechanisms underlying pancreatic cancer, specifically the contribution of developmental genes.

Understanding the genetic pathways that catalyze the growth of pancreatic cancer cells helps lead to earlier detection—critical because the disease has few symptoms until it is well advanced—and to innovative, personalized treatments. Dr. Fernández -del Castillo’s team is rapidly bringing discoveries from the laboratory to the clinic and improving outcomes for patients with pancreatic cancer.

“The Beggs ongoing funding of the biobank has allowed for the creation of multiple xenografts and cell lines, which are indispensable for basic and translational research in pancreatic cancer, as well as the linkage of the biologic repository with clinical data,” says Dr. Fernández-del Castillo. “Their stewardship has opened many doors for researchers at Mass General and beyond.”

Story told by Jordan Rich of The Jordan Rich Show on WBZ NewsRadio 1030. Visit www.theonehundred.org to learn more and meet the rest of our honorees.

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