Grant from Butler Family Foundation Supports Mesothelioma Research


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Grant from Butler Family Foundation Supports Mesothelioma Research

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March 6, 2014 - Albany , NY

ALBANY, N.Y., March 6, 2014-The Butler Family Foundation of the Community Foundation for the Greater Capital Region has granted $15,000 to Albany Medical College to support research on mesothelioma, an aggressive cancer that affects the lining of the lungs, heart or abdomen. It is primarily related to asbestos exposure.

The funding supports the scientific endeavors of Paul Higgins, Ph.D., co-director of the Center for Cell Biology and Cancer Research at Albany Medical College. Dr. Higgins is investigating a gene responsible for the spread of mesothelioma tumors with the goal of developing effective drug treatments.

The Butler Family Foundation has donated $78,000 since 2008 in support of Albany Med's mesothelioma research. The foundation works to improve awareness, education, resources and treatment of mesothelioma in the Capital Region. It honors the memory of Troy natives Kevin J. Butler (1957-2006) and his older brother Jay (1949-2009), both of whom succumbed to mesothelioma.

"Albany Med, the Butler Family Foundation and The Community Foundation have a shared vision of harnessing the power of laboratory research to find a cure for this insidious disease. This gift is a powerful statement about the significance of our research arm, and we are grateful," said Vincent Verdile, M.D., dean of Albany Medical College and executive vice president for health affairs at Albany Medical Center.

Mesothelioma is a rare cancer, with 3,000 new cases diagnosed annually; however, its incidence is on the rise. Dr. Higgins has discovered that expression of a certain gene in tumor cells contributes to the spread of mesothelioma and a poor prognosis. He discovered the gene, found in many different cells in the body, is responsible for cell survival.

"In normal physiology, this gene helps cells move from one place to another by creating a tissue scaffold. That's good for healthy cells but not for tumor cells," explained Dr. Higgins.

This work was enhanced by his findings that tumor growth can be arrested by inhibiting the gene's function using experimental drugs known as "small molecule pharmacologic inhibitors;" several are in development in his lab, and others have been developed by Japanese researchers with whom he is collaborating.

"None of this work would have been possible without the generous support of the Butler Family Foundation, and I am very grateful," Dr. Higgins said.

Albany Medical Center, northeastern New York's only academic health sciences center, is one of the largest private employers in the Capital Region. It incorporates the 734-bed Albany Medical Center Hospital, which offers the widest range of medical and surgical services in the region, and the Albany Medical College, which trains the next generation of doctors, scientists and other healthcare professionals, and also includes a biomedical research enterprise and the region's largest physicians practice with more than 400 doctors. Albany Medical Center works with dozens of community partners to improve the region's health and quality of life. For more information: or

Since 1968, The Community Foundation for the Greater Capital Region has provided an effective means for people who care about this community to be part of shaping its future.  The Community Foundation offers donors a complete toolkit for charitable giving, expert assistance in learning more about the causes they care about, and the opportunity to join others with similar interests to learn and give together. Through flexible donor services, strategic grant making and community leadership, the Community Foundation helps people support the causes they care about, now and for generations to come.  For more information, please visit them online at or call 518-446-9638.


Media Inquiries:

Beth  Engeler

(518) 262 - 3421

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