Gift in Honor of Friend Helps Launch Brain Tumor Research Program

Yale School of Medicine has announced the launch of the Yale Program in Brain Tumor Research, established with a $12 million, multi-year gift from Turkish financier Mehmet Kutman, M.B.A. The donation was made by Kutman in honor of a close friend and business associate who is currently being treated for glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), the most common and most aggressive form of brain cancer. Through the new program, researchers at the School of Medicine led by Murat Günel, M.D., Nixdorff-German Professor of Neurosurgery and member of Yale Cancer Center, will harness the power of the latest genomic techniques to better understand brain tumors, with a special focus on (GBM) and similar illnesses.

“Mehmet Kutman’s generous support for Yale’s genomic research will spur the effort to find new treatments for patients whose lives are threatened by these brain cancers,” said Yale President Richard C. Levin.

Over the past five years, improvements in radiotherapy and surgical techniques, and the advent of drugs that block blood vessel formation in tumors have significantly increased survival time in patients with GBM, which accounts for about 60 percent of all brain tumors diagnosed in the United States each year. But despite these advances, on average these patients live less than one year after diagnosis.

“In spite of much research and the application of the latest in technology, the prognosis for survival of patients with GBM is unacceptably short,” said Robert J. Alpern, M.D., Dean and Ensign Professor of Medicine at Yale School of Medicine. “Basic research leading to an understanding of the biology of these tumors is essential.”

Last year’s founding of the Yale Center for Genomic Analysis placed the School of Medicine at the forefront of genomic sequencing research, which has the potential to identify aberrant genes present in GBM tumors and determine how such genes vary from patient to patient, opening up the possibility of individually tailored treatments for the disease. “As we work to contribute to a complete catalogue of the mutations present in brain tumors, we will be able to understand individual tumors and come up with better therapies,” Günel said.

“I have a great deal of confidence in both Dr. Günel and Yale School of Medicine,” says Kutman. “We hope very much to break ground in genomics-related GBM research in the near future.”

Kutman is chairman and chief executive of Istanbul-based Global Investment Holdings, a merchant bank with diverse interests in Turkish seaports, real estate, energy generation and distribution, and financial institutions. His gift was made in honor of a fellow board member at the company. To jumpstart the effort, some 400 samples of brain tumors from Turkish hospitals will be delivered to Yale, a valuable research resource that will supplement the many pathological specimens already on hand at the medical school.

“Mr. Kutman’s selection of Dr. Günel to perform these studies is a testimony to Murat’s international reputation in neuroscience. He is a gifted clinician and investigator who can use these resources to focus on the genetic basis for glioblastoma,” said Joseph M. Piepmeier, M.D., Nixdorff-German Professor of Neurosurgery and director of surgical neuro-oncology at the School of Medicine. “Under Dr. Günel’s leadership, the Yale Program on Neurogenetics is now positioned to discover effective treatment for this fatal disease.”

Günel, also professor of neurobiology and genetics and co-director of the Yale Neurogenetics Program, said, “This gift brings unprecedented opportunities for us to extend our expertise in genomic sequencing to one of the deadliest diseases, and hopefully, to make a difference for patients,” adding that, thanks to the gift, genomic research on GBM had already begun at Yale. “We’re sequencing brain tumors right now. There’s no time. A cure cannot wait.”

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