The Sol Goldman Pancreatic Cancer Research Center

« Fundraising Home

The Michael Rolfe Pancreatic Cancer Foundation for PC Research


January 2002

The Michael Rolfe Pancreatic Cancer Foundation (formerly named The Michael Rolfe Research Foundation) was formed in 1999 to primarily support research for the early detection of pancreas cancer. Pancreas cancer was selected as the focus of the Foundation's efforts because of the scope of this disease and the limited resources committed to its eradication. Pancreas cancer is the fourth most common cause of cancer-related deaths in both men and women in the United States. Claiming 29,000 lives each year, pancreas cancer is the deadliest of all cancers because it initially presents few symptoms and can take months to diagnose. Average life expectancy after diagnosis is only 3-6 months. Michael Rolfe, the inspiration for the Foundation's efforts, died just two weeks after his diagnosis of pancreas cancer. To date, there has been minimal government funding (just $15.5 million or 0.5% of the National Cancer Institute's total cancer budget) and minimal private philanthropy directed towards pancreas cancer research.

Jim (son), Judy (wife), and Lisa (daughter)
Left to Right (in relation to Michael Rolfe): Jim (son), Judy (wife), and Lisa (daughter)

The objectives for the Michael Rolfe Pancreatic Cancer Foundation's efforts in pancreas cancer are as follows:


These objectives will be realized by investing in the necessary infrastructure (e.g. labs, computers, instruments, etc.) and people (scientists, research coordinators, techs, etc.) to accelerate the pace of progress in pancreas cancer research. Key to achieving these objectives is an interdisciplinary team effort that can stimulate breakthrough thinking in this very difficult area.

Johns Hopkins has been selected as the primary recipient to date of funds from the Michael Rolfe Pancreatic Cancer Foundation because of the leading interdisciplinary team they have assembled in their fight against pancreas cancer. This team includes scientists, surgeons, oncologists, pathologists and other professionals working at the forefront of major advances in pancreas cancer. These advances include the development of novel surgical techniques, vaccines, new combinations of radiation and chemotherapy and screening tests. Additionally, Johns Hopkins is a recipient of a National Cancer Institute "SPORE" (Specialized Program of Research Excellence) grant in pancreas cancer and one of a select number of institutions participating in a National College of Surgeons study comparing adjuvant therapies, presenting an opportunity to put hundreds of patients in care protocols in the near future. To date, the Michael Rolfe Pancreatic Cancer Foundation has contributed $418,000 to support pancreas cancer research at Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions. These monies have been used to support the Early Detection Lab, open a new lab dedicated to developing a mouse model of pancreas cancer, and to support the application of new gene chip technology to the study of familial pancreas cancer. These monies have served as a catalyst for substantial additional extramural funding and a dozen publications in peer reviewed journals.

In 2002, the Michael Rolfe Pancreatic Cancer Foundation decided to embark upon a second collaboration with Northwestern University Medical School. While not intended to dilute the Foundation's support of Johns Hopkins, this collaboration is being pursued to aid in the expansion of a local donor base and to support Northwestern's efforts to move forward with the creation of a world-class comprehensive pancreas cancer program. This multidisciplinary program will focus on integrating clinical and basic science research innovation in the area of pancreas cancer with the latest treatment and clinical therapies for patients with the disease. Experts in medical oncology, surgical oncology, gastroenterology, radiology, and the basic sciences will fulfill the vision for the Center through collaborative efforts focused on enhancing patient care and advancing knowledge. The Center's education and outreach efforts will be guided by the critical message of early detection and diagnosis. To date, the Michael Rolfe Pancreatic Cancer Foundation has contributed $75,000 to Northwestern University Medical School. These monies will be used to endow the Michael Rolfe Annual Lectureship Fund and to support the Michael Rolfe Pancreatic Cancer Foundation Research Fellowship.

The Michael Rolfe Pancreatic Cancer Foundation has and will continue to collaborate with other organizations dedicated to the eradication of pancreas cancer. Most notably, the Foundation has interfaced with PANCAN, the national association for pancreas cancer in the areas of advocacy and education, and The Lustgarten Foundation For Pancreas Cancer Research. Additionally the Foundation's Steering Committee members attended and reviewed the results of the National Cancer Institute's Progress Review Group (PRG) on pancreas cancer in the Fall of 2000.

The Michael Rolfe Pancreas Research Foundation expects to sustain its efforts in the future by growing and further cultivating its donor base, including individuals, family foundations and corporations. These efforts will be aided by the Foundation's support of a Chicago-based organization (Northwestern) and the grateful patients/families affiliated with Northwestern. Additionally, the Foundation is currently undergoing a reorganization to enable a more efficient approach to fundraising and expansion of major supporters of the Foundation.

The Michael Rolfe Pancreatic Cancer Foundation evaluates its efforts at the end of each calendar year with the Foundation Board reviewing progress on its sponsored research activities and documenting specific areas of progress for review by all contributors. To date, this list has been impressive, including the proven effectiveness of a vaccine to increase survival rates and the opening of a new lab committed to developing a mouse model for studying specific pancreas cancer diagnosis and treatment applications.

Additionally, the Foundation evaluates the outputs of the new staff who have been funded through the Michael Rolfe Pancreatic Cancer Foundation and their track records in attracting additional funding to support their work. Specifically, scientists who have gotten their initial "seed money" from the Michael Rolfe Pancreatic Cancer Foundation have been able to triple this initial money with additional dollars from NIH and other grant funding vehicles within a 1-2 year period.