MINNEAPOLIS/ST. PAUL, Minn., April 10 /PRNewswire/ -- The University of Minnesota has received its largest gift ever -- $65 million from Minnesota Masonic Charities -- to the University of Minnesota Cancer Center. With this pledge, Masonic support of cancer research and care at the University of Minnesota over the past 53 years totals $100 million. In recognition of this record-breaking gift, the University of Minnesota Cancer Center will now be called the Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota.

"The Masonic Fraternity is proud to expand its partnership with the Masonic Cancer Center for a cure. The gift is new, but the giving is not," said Raymond G. Christensen, M.D., Grand Master of the state's nearly 17,000 Masons.

"The Masons' legacy of giving to cancer research at the University of Minnesota has transformed our ability to find cures and better ways of preventing, diagnosing, and treating cancer," said University President Robert Bruininks.

The $65 million over 15 years will allow the Masonic Cancer Center to expand its work, including bringing research to clinical practice for improved cancer prevention, diagnosis, and treatment. Researchers will also be able to expand studies of cancer survivorship to better understand and address care for people living with cancer.

"Our continued partnership with Minnesota Masonic Charities and this extremely generous gift will allow us to take the Masonic Cancer Center to the next level," said Douglas Yee, M.D., director. "We will be able to significantly expand our capabilities in cancer research and treatment. We thank the Masons for their confidence in us."

Highlights of the Masons' legacy of support include $1 million to build the Masonic Memorial Hospital, which admitted its first patient in 1958. The building still stands today as a cancer clinic and general research building. Since then, Minnesota Masons and members of the Order of the Eastern Star have generously provided $35 million to support cancer research and patient care, including a $10 million pledge to build a new state-of-the-art cancer clinic. Additional support was given to build the Masonic Cancer Research Building. That four-story building, completed in 1996, is home to the newly renamed Masonic Cancer Center, one of just 39 comprehensive cancer centers recognized by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) -- and the only one in the Twin Cities area. This highest level designation is awarded to institutions that make ongoing, significant advances in cancer research, treatment, and education.

The Masonic Cancer Center was founded in 1991 to provide a collaborative environment for researchers to work on the causes, prevention, detection, and treatment of cancer. Its several hundred members are some of the world's leaders in research on bone marrow transplantation, childhood cancers, cancers of the breast and bone, cancer genetics, tobacco research, immunology, new treatment development, and epidemiology.

Masons belong to the world's oldest and largest fraternal society. Minnesota Masonic Charities makes charitable contributions averaging nearly $5.6 million a year, as part of annual services totaling nearly $70 million. They made the current $65 million gift to the university through the Minnesota Medical Foundation, which raises funds for the University's Cancer Center, Medical School, School of Public Health, and related areas in the Academic Health Center.

Contact: Molly Portz, Academic Health Center, (612) 625-2640

SOURCE The University of Minnesota