The Profound Impact of Philanthropy in Women’s Health Research

Announcing the Lilli and Seth Harris Endowed Chair for Ovarian Cancer

Despite being a leading cause of cancer death in women, ovarian cancer research remains underfunded on a national level. With the help of a generous philanthropic gift, Cleveland Clinic’s Ob/Gyn & Women’s Health Institute (WHI) hopes to make a significant difference in women’s lives by answering questions that may not be addressed otherwise.

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The Lilli and Seth Harris Endowed Chair for Ovarian Cancer will provide ongoing financial support for current and future endeavors in ovarian cancer research, education and prevention programs at Cleveland Clinic Hillcrest Hospital and its main campus.

“This contribution will have a profound impact,” states Beri Ridgeway, MD, Chair of the WHI. “Philanthropy is important in all aspects of women’s health, which is typically underfunded. We use philanthropic funds to promote our research, education and clinical care. It’s hard for novel research projects and clinical programming to be successful without adequate funding. This generous gift will be transformative for our work in ovarian cancer.”

Ovarian cancer research is desperately needed

In the U.S., the rate of new cases of ovarian cancer is 11.2 per 100,000, with a death rate of 6.7 per 100,000. That’s 21,000 new cases of ovarian cancer each year. With a 5-year relative survival of 48.6%, the prognosis is generally poor for women who develop ovarian cancer. The disease accounts for nearly 14,000 deaths. The median age at diagnosis is 63 years old, and risk factors include older age, early menarche or late menopause, nulliparity, endometriosis, asbestos exposure and genetic predisposition.

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“Ovarian cancer is one of the unfortunate diseases that we find late, mostly because the symptoms are vague and appear later in the disease. Generally speaking, we diagnose ovarian cancer in stage 3 or 4 about 75% of the time,” says Chad Michener, MD, gynecologic oncologist and Medical Director for Continuous Improvement for the WHI.

Research is ongoing and more is desperately needed related to identifying biomarkers, elucidating mechanisms of chemoresistance and developing targeted therapies, such as hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC), Poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) inhibitors and immunotherapies.

For WHI, the second endowed chair in gynecologic cancers

This is the second endowed chair in gynecologic cancers in the WHI. The first, announced in 2019, was the Laura J. Fogarty Endowed Chair in Women’s Health for Uterine Cancer Research. Robert DeBernardo, MD, Section Head of Gynecologic Oncology, holds this position.  

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“An endowed chair like the Lilli and Seth Harris Endowed Chair for Ovarian Cancer will allow us to recruit a new clinician scientist to our department. With a great group of gynecologic oncologists, busy clinic locations and research funding, it’s an attractive position,” says Dr. Ridgeway.

Once identified, the Lilli and Seth Harris Endowed Chair for Ovarian Cancer will work at both the main campus and Hillcrest Hospital in order to provide continuity of cutting-edge care between the two sites. Other gynecologic oncologists – Robert DeBernado, MD, Chad Michener, MD, and Stephanie Ricci, MD – also see patients at both sites.

If you are interested in discussing this position further, please reach out to the Cleveland Clinic Office of Physician Recruitment.