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A Decade of Making a Difference: In Vino Vita Turns 10

Caitlin Fanning, MSN, RN, OCN, Clinical Practice Lead, spoke at this year’s In Vino Vita. She was also a featured speaker the first time it was held in 2014.

In 2023, the Fox Chase community celebrated IVVX: The Tenth Annual In Vino Vita Benefit and Wine Auction. This milestone anniversary provided an opportunity to look back at how the gala has evolved and all of the innovative cancer research, world-class care, and cutting-edge equipment that it has made possible.

In Vino Vita debuted in 2014 as a weeknight affair in Center City Philadelphia. About 200 people attended, and they raised $300,000 to purchase 45 new infusion chairs for chemotherapy patients. It was an excellent start and an indication of the success to come. Within a few years, the event blossomed into a Saturday evening formal gala that attracts philanthropic and business leaders, wine enthusiasts, as well as many close friends of the cancer center. Fundraising now surpasses $1 million each year.

Among many enhancements to Fox Chase’s clinics, labs, and outreach capabilities, In Vino Vita has funded 12 pilot research grants for young investigators; a state-of-the-art immunotherapy laboratory; sophisticated technology and equipment to enhance clinical care, including mint Lesion software and the Auris Monarch Platform for robotic bronchoscopy; 45 modern recliners for infusion room patients; The Marian and Emma Brungard Surgical Family Waiting Suite; a second-generation Mobile Screening Unit; and a Nursing Simulation and Innovation Lab, slated to open in 2024.

All previous event chairs returned to co-chair the 2023 event together. Bob and Maggie Beck, William and Susan Federici, Robert and Margot Keith, David and Sandra Marshall, Donald and Lauren Morel, and Tina Pidgeon and Tim Fitzpatrick were joined by Louis and Carol Della Penna, who served as wine chairs for the first nine years, as well as 2023 wine chairs, Matthew and Jennifer Zelesko.

At the tenth annual gala, more than 500 guests raised $2 million to build an Advanced Treatment Center at Fox Chase. Long-tenured nurses Jennie Gilliland, MSN, RN, OCN, Clinical Director of Infusion Services, and Caitlin Fanning, MSN, RN, OCN, Clinical Practice Lead, inspired the crowd by explaining in detail how a completely reimagined ambulatory care space will significantly improve the patient experience. Fanning was also a featured speaker at the first In Vino Vita.

The Fox Chase Advanced Treatment Center will enable expanded access to the very latest therapies, shorten or eliminate some inpatient stays, and provide additional comfort and privacy for patients who need infusion therapy, such as chemotherapy, CAR-T, or theranostics.

In Vino Vita has now raised more than $12 million for cancer research and patient care since it began in 2014.

2023 Philanthropy Highlights

Jennie Gilliland, MSN, RN, OCN, Clinical Director of Infusion Services, knows firsthand the impact that money from In Vino Vita can have.

In fiscal year 2023, the Institutional Advancement team raised a record $23.9 million to enable new programs, expanded offerings, and more cancer research. More than 11,000 donors made a gift to Fox Chase during the year, of which 4,053 were making their first gift. Many long-term donors continued their support as well, with 656 donors who have given for 30 or more years.

Noteworthy major gifts received in 2023 include a $7.2 million Charitable Remainder Trust to benefit the Marvin and Concetta Greenberg Pancreatic Cancer Institute, a $2 million estate commitment to create the Beatrice Mintz Chair in Cancer Research, and a $1 million grant from the W. M. Keck Foundation for research on using deep learning to enable rational design of molecular glues.

The 2022 In Vino Vita Benefit and Wine Auction raised more than $1.5 million to fund a Nursing Innovation and Simulation Lab to make the best nurses even better, create opportunities for training a new generation, and accelerate the introduction of new techniques and practices in the clinic. This space is scheduled to open in 2024.

At a spring event to honor all members of the Laurel Society, the Institutional Advancement team presented Shelley Wolf Harris and Steven Harris with the Laurel Society Award. The couple was recognized for many years of purposeful philanthropy.

Next-Generation Mobile Screening Unit Ready to Roll

A new Mobile Screening Unit arrived on campus in 2023, thanks to the generosity of donors at the eighth annual In Vino Vita Benefit and Wine Auction. The 2021 gala raised more than $1.7 million to purchase the custom-built vehicle, including a naming gift from longtime philanthropic partner West Pharmaceutical Services Inc.

The new vehicle incorporates recent technological and medical advances, and will expand the center’s capacity to provide cancer screenings and other health services, especially to underserved populations. Fox Chase has been a leader in community-based cancer screening for more than three decades, because routine screening is critical to reducing overall cancer mortality rates.

More than 100 businesses, legislators, medical offices, faith-based groups, and community health centers in Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey partner with the Fox Chase Mobile Screening Unit. Nearly half of those who have utilized Fox Chase’s mobile screening services said they would not likely have received recommended cancer screenings if Fox Chase did not offer them in such an accessible format.

This next-generation vehicle will provide more people in Greater Philadelphia with access to more advanced and varied cancer screening services.

A Successful, but Soggy, Paws for the Cause

On a rainy Sunday in September, the Fox Chase Cancer Center Board of Associates hosted the 24th Annual Paws for the Cause, with generous support from title sponsor West Pharmaceutical Services Inc. In addition to a one-mile walk around the Fox Chase campus, participants enjoyed food, music, entertainment, and contests, and raised more than $130,000 to support cancer research.

This year’s event had an all-time high of 26 sponsors, including 12 that were new to Paws for the Cause. They were joined by dozens of volunteers, 15 vendors, and five animal rescue organizations.

Johnathan Whetstine, PhD, and the Whetstine Lab team were repeat winners of the “Stanley Pup” Trophy, which is awarded to the Fox Chase department that raises the most money for the event. Abhishek Aphale, MD, served as Physician Ambassador and Elaine Spangler as Patient Ambassador. Event chair Lori Giampaolo’s Team Giampaolo won the overall team fundraising prize, and Sue Serio of Fox 29 served as emcee of this much-loved Fox Chase tradition.

A Last Gift and a Lasting Legacy

The late Concetta “Chet” Greenberg was among the most generous donors in Fox Chase history. Her numerous gifts in memory of her husband Marvin established the Marvin and Concetta Greenberg Pancreatic Cancer Institute in 2017, the Marvin S. Greenberg, MD, Chair in Pancreatic Cancer Surgery in 2008, and the newly created Marvin and Concetta Greenberg Chair in Pancreatic Cancer Research, among many initiatives.

Greenberg died in 2021, just before her 100th birthday, but her support for Fox Chase continued. In 2022, Fox Chase received the balance of her long-planned estate gift: $10.8 million supporting the work of her namesake pancreatic cancer research institute. It is the culmination of many years of support and friendship.

The Marvin and Concetta Greenberg Pancreatic Cancer Institute pursues breakthroughs in early detection and treatment options for pancreatic cancer. The multidisciplinary team works to develop innovative methods to disrupt pancreatic cancer metabolism, the connective tissue stroma reaction that promotes immunosuppression, and to identify targets for drug development.

The institute boasts excellent laboratory science, an active translational research program, and a clinical research team. Sanjay S. Reddy, MD, FACS, a surgeon and one of three co-directors of the institute, received the Marvin S. Greenberg, MD, Chair in Pancreatic Cancer Surgery in 2023. It was previously held by John Hoffman, MD, FACS, the inaugural chair holder. Later in 2023, Edna Cukierman, PhD, a scientist and another of the co-directors, became the inaugural holder of the new Greenberg chair.

Since 2007, Greenberg contributed nearly $20 million to pancreatic cancer research and clinical care at Fox Chase Cancer Center.

Center Building Auditorium Gets a New Look and a New Name

In April 2023, the Fox Chase Cancer Center Auditorium underwent a major transformation and was renamed the Judith & Thomas K. Leidy Auditorium in honor of the generous donors who made it possible.

The six-week project brought new flooring, seats, and wall coverings, enhancing the room’s acoustics and overall comfort. Networking and audiovisual system upgrades are planned for the near future. Amid the changes, the chalkboard wall at the front of the room remains as a nod to the history of the auditorium.

The Leidys have supported Fox Chase since 1996, donating to many initiatives, including the Clinical Urology Research Endeavors (CURE) program, a pilot study of immunotherapy in kidney cancer, and the Judith and Thomas K. Leidy Visiting Professorship in Urologic Oncology.

The auditorium, along with renovations to two of the adjacent conference rooms, is the first in a three-phase plan to upgrade the Center Building common areas. The next phases will see improvements in the building entry area, main corridor, and remaining conference rooms. 

Beatrice Mintz Endowed Chair

When Beatrice Mintz, PhD, one of the most accomplished scientists in the history of Fox Chase Cancer Center, died in 2022, just before her 101st birthday, she left her entire estate to support cancer research. The $2 million gift she left to Fox Chase was the largest ever made by a faculty member. Per her wishes, it will create the Beatrice Mintz Chair in Cancer Research.

Among several revolutionary contributions, Mintz developed transgenic mice, making it possible to breed mouse models for research on any number of human diseases. Mouse models have become indispensable in medical research. She was also first to understand the relationship between stem cells’ behavior and cancer, and to observe that aberrant stem cells could be “reprogrammed” by neighboring healthy cells.

Endowed chairs provide a stable source of funding while honoring and advancing the careers of high-achieving faculty. An endowed chair is among the highest academic honors. Mintz was the inaugural holder of the Jack Schultz Chair in Basic Science at Fox Chase, which she held from 2002 until 2019.