The Chickasaw Nation has made a major gift to support the expansion of the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation’s cancer research programs.


The grant will create the Chickasaw Nation Laboratory for Cancer Research, a newly renovated lab facility where OMRF scientists will focus on identifying therapeutics for cancer. The lab was dedicated in a recent ceremony at OMRF attended by Chickasaw Nation Gov. Bill Anoatubby, OMRF President Stephen Prescott, M.D., and other representatives of the Chickasaw Nation and OMRF.


“We are investing in this research laboratory because we strongly believe the innovative work being done by the Oklahoman Medical Research Foundation will make a meaningful difference in the fight against this devastating disease,” said Gov. Bill Anoatubby. “We are confident we will see a great return on our investment in the form of cancer treatment strategies that will make a positive impact for decades to come.”


“Cancer is a problem that affects every population,” said Prescott. “Gov. Anoatubby and the Chickasaw Nation understand this issue, and with their generous gift, they have signaled their commitment to fight a killer that plagues Oklahomans and people everywhere. We are grateful for their support.”


The laboratory will be home to a team of internationally recognized cancer researchers who were recently recruited to OMRF from the University of Utah’s Huntsman Cancer Institute.


Over the past three decades, OMRF researchers have made important contributions to the understanding of cancers such as leukemia and lymphomas. Discoveries at OMRF have also given birth to an experimental brain cancer treatment that’s currently undergoing clinical trials in patients at the University of Oklahoma’s Peggy and Charles Stephenson Cancer Center.


Still, according to David Jones, Ph.D., who joined OMRF last year to lead the new cancer initiative, there is much more to be done. In particular, he said, OMRF is adding an emphasis in cellular signaling and molecular medicine, two growth areas in cancer research.


By adding an expert in cancer xenografts, the ability to grow a patient’s tumor in a mouse, researchers will have a way to test experimental therapies pre-clinically. OMRF cancer researchers plan to focus their initial efforts in this area at developing new “targeted” treatments for breast and colon cancers.


“I would like to thank the Chickasaw Nation and Gov. Anoatubby for their tremendous faith and support for cancer research,” said Jones, who holds the Jeannine Tuttle Rainbolt Endowed Chair in Cancer Research at OMRF. “Building on OMRF’s rich history, we are creating a new kind of cancer research team from a variety of disciplines. We want to use the technologies at our disposal to more precisely understand the causes of disease in patients and then find the tools that will be most effective in their treatment.”


The gift comes on the heels of a new partnership between OMRF and the Chickasaw Nation to provide rheumatology care to the tribal clinic while helping researchers better understand the role race plays in rheumatoid arthritis and related diseases.


“We are extremely excited about all the ways in which the Chickasaw Nation and OMRF are collaborating,” said Prescott. “By working together, we can make an impact in the fight against cancer and other devastating diseases.”