The Culprit is Cancer
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needed support in 1989 and Tartikoff had a plan. She had worked
as a consultant to the cosmetics and beauty industry and thought,'Why
not approach a big-name company like Revlon, that prides itself
on appealing to ordinary American women, to help battle a disease
that affects thousands of women each year?'
didn't know Ronald O. Perelman, the New York financier and Revlon's
CEO. But she wrote him, introducing herself and lobbying on Slamon's
behalf. Her initial efforts went nowhere. Then she happened to bump
into Perelman at Spago. The determined Tartikoff spoke of Slamon's
important work, and Perelman agreed to dispatch someone from Revlon
summer, Jim Conroy, Revlon's special counsel, met with Slamon and
Dr. John Glaspy M.P.H., M.D. '79, a Jonsson Cancer Center scientist
engaged in bone marrow transplantation research and nutrition studies
pertaining to breast cancer. Slamon told Conroy about his HER-2
findings. The genetic alteration probably played a significant role
in breast cancer, Slamon said, but he needed further research to
prove it. And, suspecting the gene and its protein of playing roles,
he wanted to start testing antibodies directed against HER-2.
line, the scientist said, this is how it stands: If they relied
solely on federal grants, their progress could be delayed by perhaps
three years. In that brief period of time, 120,000 more women might
succumb to the disease.
put it to the Revlon executive more bluntly: "We'll have a Rose
Bowl full of dead women."
not only came through for Slamon, but he made an astonishing offer:
$800,000 a year for three years, a total of $2.4 million. As support
from an American corporation to a single scientific group, the gift
was virtually unprecedented. Just as amazing, the research funding
was unrestricted. Slamon could use the money however he saw fit.
would have taken four concurrent National Cancer Institute grants
to build the equivalent of the program Revlon funded with just the
stroke of a pen," Slamon says intently. "And there was no writing
a grant, submitting it, waiting eight to 12 months to hear. This
gift allowed us to follow our leads almost instantaneously, and
made a huge difference in this whole story."