Stony Brook University Cancer Center Receives a New Dose of Philanthropy

Fellowship Established with $1 Million From George and Olga Tsunis

Stony Brook Cancer Center researcher Dr. Basil Rigas, MD is onto something big. His recent studies have identified two novel compounds that may hold the secret for new drugs to combat ovarian cancer and pancreatic cancer.

To accelerate his research, Rigas needs more highly trained researchers to explore how the compounds react with cells and identify their molecular targets and also how safe and ultimately effective they will be. And the clock is ticking: more than 80,000 Americans are diagnosed with ovarian or pancreatic cancer every year.

Thanks to their shared commitment to fighting cancer, close friends of Stony Brook George and Olga Tsunis have established an endowed fellowship for an MD or PhD pursuing biomedical research at Stony Brook Medicine.

The Tsunis Fellowship for Cancer Prevention will attract fellows who have obtained a PhD or MD from an accredited university or medical school in Greece. Ideal candidates plan to return to Greece after their post-doctoral experience at Stony Brook Medicine to pursue their research careers in cancer prevention.

While at Stony Brook, the George and Olga Tsunis Fellow will participate in the process of developing novel drugs for the treatment of cancer. Such knowledge could be applied in Greece to the improve the treatment of cancer patients; conduct clinical trials of new drugs; and foster academia-pharmaceutical industry interactions on drug development.

“Stony Brook’s cancer research enterprise will be further propelled by the passion and generosity of Olga and George Tsunis,” said Samuel L. Stanley Jr., MD, President of Stony Brook University. “Their leadership by example will inspire and enable a new generation of Greek researchers and collaborators who, along with Stony Brook, strive toward the bold pursuit of a world without cancer.”

The Stony Brook Cancer Center, led by renowned Director Yusuf Hannun MD, is home to some of the most promising new ideas in cancer research today. At its new and unique cancer-fighting enterprise, the Kavita and Lalit Bahl Center for Metabolomics and Imaging, Hannun and his team are pivoting from studying one cancer —as most other centers do— to studying the genesis of all cancer, at the molecular level.

The Stony Brook University Cancer Center is clearly an investment that promises George and Olga Tsunis a significant return on their investment. A prominent business leader, George Tsunis is the founder, chairman and chief executive officer of Chartwell Hotels, which owns, manages and develops hotels under the Hilton, Marriott and InterContinental Hotels Group franchises. An attorney and developer, Tsunis is highly sought out for his expertise in public policy at the intersection of economic and foreign affairs.

Kenneth Kaushansky, Dean of the School of Medicine and Senior Vice President of Health Sciences, points out that recruiting top graduate students from around the world adds immeasurable value to the School of Medicine’s research engine. “We want the best minds working shoulder to shoulder with our faculty, bringing new perspectives and a cross-cultural dimension to solve complex biomedical challenges,” he said.

“Imagine if the George and Olga Fellow working alongside a Greek American contributed to the ultimate goal of preventing or curing cancer,” said Tsunis. “That would be remarkable achievement for Olga and me as well as the Greek community.”