Movie exec pledges $1 million to UCLA Neurosurgery for brain cancer research
|Donor Ted Gagliano (in pale blue) poses with UCLA neurosurgeons Dr. Neil Martin, department chair; Dr. Linda Liau, department vice-chair; and her husband and fellow neurosurgeon, Dr. Marvin Bergsneider. Liau was presented with a Golden Portal award for her groundbreaking research to find a cure for glioblastoma, a deadly brain tumor.|
"We are deeply grateful to Mr. Gagliano for his compassion and farsighted vision," said Dr. Neil Martin, chairman of neurosurgery at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. "His generous gift will enable the UCLA Department of Neurosurgery to pioneer new approaches to fighting aggressive brain cancer and enable more patients to lead longer lives."
In an unexpected twist of fate, Gagliano was invited by a colleague to attend UCLA Neurosurgery's 2011 Visionary Ball the same night that one of his closest friends was undergoing surgery to remove a glioblastoma, a fast-growing, lethal brain tumor. During the dinner gala, a patient at each table stood up and shared how a UCLA neurosurgeon had saved his or her life.
"The survivors' personal stories of hope and courage really inspired me," Gagliano recalled. "I was moved by the unfairness of brain disease, and it hit me how lucky I am to be healthy. I learned about the great work that UCLA does and wanted to do more to help."
A tour of researcher Dr. Linda Liau's laboratory helped seal Gagliano's commitment. Her team has developed a novel vaccine that trains a patient's immune system to recognize and destroy brain cancer cells, adding years to the patient's life.
"Seeing my name on a building isn't my thing," Gagliano said. "What excites me is the chance to offer cancer patients a promising treatment that gives them hope and makes their lives better. That's why I was fascinated by Dr. Liau's vaccine work. She isn't just surgically removing brain tumors; she's looking for new ways to stop them in their tracks for good. I wanted to support research that she wouldn't be able to do otherwise."
The funds from Gagliano's pledge will allow Liau to test a new approach that boosts the vaccine's impact by strengthening the immune system.
"Mr. Gagliano's generous support will enable my team to take a significant step forward in improving personalized therapies to fight glioblastoma," said Liau, vice chair of neurosurgery and director of the UCLA Brain Tumor Program. "We are exploring new research advances and launching clinical trials that we hope will work better in keeping patients cancer-free longer."
Pledging $1 million to support research was just Gagliano's first step toward making a difference in brain cancer patients' lives. Earlier this year, he joined the UCLA Department of Neurosurgery's board of advisers and hosted the first annual Golden Portal Awards. Benefiting UCLA's Brain Tumor Program, the event pays tribute to excellence in film and science.
In recognition of Gagliano's personal contributions, the UCLA Department of Neurosurgery will present him with its prestigious Luminary Award at its 2012 Visionary Ball at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel on Oct. 25.
The UCLA Department of Neurosurgery is committed to providing the most comprehensive patient care through innovative clinical programs in minimally invasive brain and spinal surgery; neuroendoscopy; neuro-oncology for adult and pediatric brain tumors; cerebrovascular surgery; stereotactic radiosurgery for brain and spinal disorders; surgery for movement disorders such as Parkinson's disease; and epilepsy surgery. For 21 consecutive years, the department has been ranked among the top neurosurgery programs in the nation by U.S. News & World Report, including No. 1 in Los Angeles and No. 2 on the West Coast.