(Wednesday December 6, 2006, PHILADELPHIA) University of Pennsylvania alumni Ralph J. Roberts and his son Brian L. Roberts have pledged $15 million to help create the first-of-its-kind proton therapy center for the treatment of cancer. The Roberts Proton Therapy Center will be unique in its ability to fully integrate conventional radiation treatment with proton radiation, which more accurately targets tumors and leaves surrounding healthy tissue unaffected. The Center will also be the first to be located on the campus of a world-class academic medical center, facilitating scientific research to measure and improve this innovative therapy. The gift will help finance the construction and equipment for the center, scheduled to open to patients in 2009.
"The philanthropy of Ralph and Brian Roberts will be a legacy of life and hope for cancer patients in the Philadelphia area and beyond," said Amy Gutmann, PhD , President of the University of Pennsylvania. "It will be the jewel in the crown of PENN Medicine's cancer treatment facilities, bestowing healing treatment for a deadly disease that is diagnosed in over one million new patients each year."
Proton therapy is the most precise form of advanced radiation therapy available to treat certain cancers and other diseases. It works by targeting a focused beam of high-dose radiation to a specific tumor site – thereby dramatically decreasing damage to surrounding normal tissue. Proton therapy results in less side effects and clinical complications for patients; and it enhances the physician's ability to treat tumors close to critical organs and the spinal cord.
"Philadelphia and The University of Pennsylvania have always been special to our family," said Ralph J. Roberts. "Suzanne and I are delighted to have the opportunity to give back to these two communities that have meant so much to us, with a gift that gives life through groundbreaking cancer research and treatment. Proton therapy as a treatment for cancer will undoubtedly touch thousands of lives, both adults and children, and we are fortunate to be a part of that process."
"Aileen and I are honored to be involved in helping to bring proton therapy cancer treatment to PENN Medicine and to Philadelphia ," said Brian L. Roberts. "Our family has experienced firsthand how cancer affects one's life and the lives of those around them. With the addition of this state-of-the-art technology to Penn's already stellar cancer treatment and research centers, tens of thousands of patients along the East Coast will have an access to this life-saving treatment each year."
"The impact of Ralph and Brian Roberts' gift will benefit cancer patients for generations to come," said Arthur H. Rubenstein, MBBCh, Executive Vice President of the University of Pennsylvania for the Health System and Dean of the School of Medicine. "This is a landmark gift from both the perspective of meaningful, strategic philanthropy, as well as from the standpoint of innovative cancer therapy and research. As the largest such facility in the world, this Center will provide lifesaving treatment to an estimated 3,000 patients a year."
With conventional radiation treatment, 20 percent of cancers return because the dose is too low. Proton beam therapy permits a higher and safer dose of tumor-killing radiation to be delivered to a cancer site. Because it is less harmful to normal tissue, proton beam therapy is used to treat pediatric cancers as well as those in adults.
"This is an incredibly exciting time for PENN Medicine," said Ralph W. Muller, Chief Executive Officer of the University of Pennsylvania Health System. "We have always been known as a place of collaborative thinking and cross-disciplinary teamwork. The Roberts Proton Therapy Center will further our long-standing partnership with The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, enhancing our combined efforts to explore the most effective uses of this innovative treatment."
In addition, with the Robert's Proton Therapy Center, PENN will begin a new relationship with Walter Reed Medical Center, through which proton therapy technology will be available to United States military personnel.
Ralph J. Roberts graduated from the Wharton School in 1941 and served a four-year tour of duty in the US Navy. In 1963, with the purchase of a 1,200-subscriber cable television system in Tupelo, Mississippi, he began to build what would become the largest cable television company in the country – Comcast Corporation – employing 87,000 people and serving 24 million customers. Roberts, is founder and former Chairman of the Board of Comcast Corporation, and on the boards of the Council of Emeritus Directors of the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Brandywine Museum and Conservancy, the Advisory Board of the Philadelphia Urban Affairs Coalition. He has been a member of the PENN Medicine Board of Trustees since 2002.
Ralph Roberts has received awards from the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, the Walter Kaitz Foundation, the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith, the National Conference of Christians and Jews, the Urban League of Philadelphia, the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, and the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. He has been awarded honorary degrees from Holy Family College and the University of Pennsylvania, and also received Penn's Joseph P. Wharton Award.
Brian L. Roberts graduated from Wharton School, majoring in finance, in 1981. He stared his career at Comcast selling cable door-to-door, and rose to the presidency in 1990; he is now the company's Chairman and CEO. Under his leadership, Comcast has grown into a Fortune 100 company with $22.3 billion in revenue. The Company also has a majority ownership in Comcast-Spectacor, whose major holdings include the Philadelphia Flyers NHL hockey team, the Philadelphia 76ers NBA basketball team, and two large multipurpose arenas in Philadelphia. Mr. Roberts is serving his second consecutive term as Chairman of the board of Directors for the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA), until 2007.
Brian Roberts has been honored by Institutional Investor magazine as one of America 's top CEO, by the National Association for Multi-ethnicity in Communications, by the Partnership for a Drug-Free American, and by The Police Athletic League of Philadelphia. He received the Simon Wiesenthal Center 's Humanitarian Award in 2004 and, together with his father, the UJA Federation of New York's Steven J. Ross Humanitarian Award in 2003.
Both father and son are members of the Cable Television hall of Fame, and are well known for their leadership in industry, civic, and humanitarian endeavors.
For more information, please see the Press Kit from Penn Medicine.
CONTACT: Olivia Fermano
Also see the Philadelphia Inquirer: Roberts family's grateful donation.
PENN Medicine is a $2.9 billion enterprise dedicated to the related missions of medical education, biomedical research, and high-quality patient care. PENN Medicine consists of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine (founded in 1765 as the nation's first medical school) and the University of Pennsylvania Health System.
Penn's School of Medicine is ranked #2 in the nation for receipt of NIH research funds; and ranked #3 in the nation in U.S. News & World Report's most recent ranking of top research-oriented medical schools. Supporting 1,400 fulltime faculty and 700 students, the School of Medicine is recognized worldwide for its superior education and training of the next generation of physician-scientists and leaders of academic medicine.
The University of Pennsylvania Health System includes three hospitals: Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, which is consistently ranked one of the nation's few "Honor Roll" hospitals by U.S. News & World Report ; Pennsylvania Hospital, the nation's first hospital; and Penn Presbyterian Medical Center; a faculty practice plan; a primary-care provider network; two multi-specialty satellite facilities; and home care and hospice.
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