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Karmanos educates financial, estate planners about ground-breaking research, technology at Institute


The Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute welcomed metro Detroit financial and estate planners Tuesday, May 7 to the Financial and Estate Planning Professionals Breakfast to discuss the tremendous contributions Karmanos has made in the fight against cancer and to encourage advisors to talk to their clients about helping the Institute continue that fight.

Approximately 60 financial professionals attended the early-morning breakfast and presentation at Oakland Hills Country Club in Bloomfield Hills.

Alan Schwartz, vice chair of the Karmanos Cancer Institute Board, introduced attendees to the good work going on at Karmanos.

“Having a National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center in the heart of the Detroit metropolitan community – one of only two in Michigan and one of only 41 in the nation – is a benefit to all of us and one definitely worth supporting,” he said. “We hope that you will not only talk with your clients about the positive impact of estate gifts but also share the great work taking place at Karmanos Cancer Institute for consideration in their estate plans.”

Schwartz mentioned that those who have contributed to Karmanos in the past have had a significant impact on the very high level of patient care afforded to those who come to the Institute. Examples include the late Joseph Dresner’s gift of $2.5 million, which enabled Karmanos to open the Joseph Dresner Family Center for Hematologic Malignancies and Bone Marrow Transplant in 2011.

Another contribution, provided by the late Lois Clause, will help support Karmanos’ new Clinical Core Laboratory, which is expected to open around the end of October this year. Other donors have helped Karmanos open its new Intensive Care Unit and purchase new inpatient beds and other items to make a patient’s stay more comfortable.

Gerold Bepler, M.D., Ph.D., president and CEO of Karmanos, spoke about the ground-breaking research contributions Karmanos scientists have made in the development of new cancer therapies other cancer centers will use in the future. As a National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center, Karmanos is among centers contributing the most significant cancer developments in the country, he said.

“We’ve made unequivocal progress in fighting cancer, but if you want to move the needle of survivorship, investment in research has to be ramped up,” Dr. Bepler said. “If you don’t invest in studying these cancers, you can’t expect to see changes in survival rates.”

Progress has been made in survivorship of lung cancer for both men and women, thanks to declining smoking rates. Specific cancers can now be controlled thanks to the development of targeted therapies, including Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia and certain types of lung cancer, which can both be held at bay with daily oral chemotherapies.

Dr. Bepler also highlighted new screening technology being developed and offered at Karmanos, including the SoftVue machine, which is now in the commercial phase and is close to being approved by the FDA. The ultrasound device immerses a woman’s breast in warm water; is more comfortable for the patient; and produces sharper and more conclusive images.

“This is a game-changing technology being developed at Karmanos,” Dr. Bepler said. “These images are far better than mammograms and even MRI.”

Karmanos surgeons also are the first in Michigan to treat esophageal cancer with minimally-invasive robotic surgery, providing to patients a much less debilitating procedure than the traditional method of accessing the esophagus during surgery.

Other innovative cancer therapies developed at Karmanos include a breast cancer vaccine used to treat or prevent cancer. That vaccine is now in clinical trials. Karmanos scientists also are working on individualized T cell therapy with antibody-armed T cells, as well as the modification of cancer cell metabolism, both of which allow a patient’s own immune system to fight their cancer.   

“We have made humongous progress in fighting cancer in the last 40 years and Karmanos has contributed substantially to the progress in fighting cancer,” Dr. Bepler said. More work, however, is necessary, he said. Donors can play a part in helping Karmanos maintain those efforts.

Tom Kalas, a member of the Karmanos Cancer Center board, shared with attendees his own experience at Karmanos as a leukemia patient. Kalas initially sought treatment at a nationally-recognized cancer center outside of Michigan but eventually came to Karmanos, where doctors were able to cure him of his cancer through a bone marrow transplant. Kalas said he was shocked that when he arrived at Karmanos on Christmas Eve 2007, he was able to meet with department chairs that were all part of his cancer treatment team.

“Karmanos is such a great institution,” he said. “They save lives every day. They saved my life. Karmanos is really the place you need to talk to your clients about and talk to your family about.”

Financial Advisor Jennifer Liss was an attendee of the breakfast meeting. She said the presentation about Karmanos was “very educational.”

“I especially enjoyed learning about the cutting-edge therapies right in our back yard, which all make me once again feel proud to be a metro Detroiter,” she said. “I look forward to helping this wonderful institution.”

For those with questions about designating Karmanos Cancer Institute as a beneficiary of an estate plan or other financial contribution issues, please contact Lynn Fisher, senior director of Major Gift Programs at Karmanos at (313) 576-8119 or e-mail her at


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The Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Center is accredited by The Joint Commission.
If members of the public have any quality-of-care or safety concerns, they may notify The Joint Commission at 630-792-5800.