Gerstner Philanthropies COVID-19 Response

Read More

PHOTO CREDIT: Mayo Clinic

News

  • Former IBM CEO Supports First-Generation Students
    April 27, 2020

    In a moment when preserving and expanding affordability and access are pressing concerns for colleges and universities everywhere, former IBM CEO Louis V. Gerstner '63 has established a scholarship program at Dartmouth that will benefit high-achieving, low-income students with a demonstrated interest in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. "Too many hard-working, talented teenagers do not make it to the best colleges and universities," he says. The new scholarship program will help Dartmouth attract students who are the first in their families to attend college and offer them the opportunity to receive a distinctive liberal arts education. The Louis V. Gerstner Jr. Scholars program, made possible by a $4.8 million gift, will support four undergraduates in each of the next four incoming classes, building to a full cohort of 16. The first four Louis V. Gerstner, Jr. Scholars will be named this spring.

    Read more at Dartmouth.edu
  • Renters Are Being Forced From Their Homes Despite Eviction Moratoriums Meant to Protect Them
    April 22, 2020

    Millions of people in America are under shelter-in-place orders requiring them to stay home whenever possible, but a growing number don’t have that luxury. Their landlords are kicking them out for not paying the rent, despite moratoriums on evictions in more than 30 states and dozens of cities. Though at least 39 states have announced some form of eviction moratorium, and dozens of cities have banned utility shutoffs in response to COVID-19, there are ways for landlords to push out tenants. Only nine states have banned landlords from sending eviction notices to tenants, according to Emily Benfer, a visiting associate clinical professor of law at Columbia Law School. Tenants who receive such notices may get nervous and move out, even if they’re protected by a moratorium, says Benfer, who has worked with other attorneys to compile a database of state and local eviction policies during COVID-19. The CARES Act passed by Congress in March prohibits evictions for 120 days, but it only applies to renters in properties secured by federally-backed mortgages, which account for one in four rental properties, according to the Urban Institute. That leaves most tenants dependent on state or local laws to avoid illegal evictions. Only Connecticut has in place a grace period that gives tenants extra time to pay back rent after that state’s eviction moratorium ends. That means that once courts across the country re-open, there will be a flood of evictions, says Alieza Durana of the Eviction Lab at Princeton University, which maintains a national database of evictions.

    Read more at time.com
  • Personalized blood biopsies demonstrate potential as early-warning signal of breast cancer recurrence

    Researchers in the Gerstner Center for Cancer Diagnostics at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute have increased the sensitivity of blood biopsies, demonstrating that they can monitor up to hundreds of different cancer mutations in blood samples from individual patients, with potential to detect cancer recurrence — and inform treatment decisions — years before traditional approaches could. The study appears today in Clinical Cancer Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research. In the new study, the scientists tested their approach on blood samples from breast cancer patients. Breast cancer is most deadly when it comes back in patients, often years after their first treatments for the disease. Existing diagnostics aren’t yet sensitive enough to tell whether a patient’s initial therapy eliminated the disease or left behind tumor cells that pose future danger — and by the time the cancer is found the second time around, it’s often too late to stop. Blood biopsies, which scan patient blood samples for genetic traces of cancer, could potentially provide an earlier warning of metastatic cancer before it is picked up through standard monitoring.

    Read more at broadinstitute.org
  • #RealCollege 2020 Report: Five Years of Evidence on Basic Needs Insecurity
    February 21, 2020

    Now in its fifth year, the #RealCollege survey is the nation’s largest, longest-running annual assessment of basic needs insecurity among college students. In the absence of any federal data on the subject, the Hope Center for College, Community, and Justice created the survey to evaluate access to affordable food and housing among college students. This report describes the results of the #RealCollege survey administered in the fall of 2019 at 227 two- and four-year institutions across the United States. It also considers the cumulative evidence on campus basic needs insecurity amassed over five surveys from 2015 to 2019. The lessons the Hope Center has learned are drawn from over 330,000 students attending 411 colleges and universities.In 2019, nearly 167,000 students from 171 two-year institutions and 56 four-year institutions responded to the #RealCollege survey. The results indicate: 39% of respondents were food insecure in the prior 30 days, 46% of respondents were housing insecure in the previous year and 17% of respondents were homeless in the previous year. These rates of food and housing insecurity are lower than they were for the sample of students and colleges assessed in 2018, while results for homelessness are the same. Basic needs insecurity continues to be more common among students attending two-year colleges compared with those attending four-year colleges. Students often marginalized in higher education, including Black and Indigenous students, students identifying as nonbinary or transgender, students enrolled part-time, and students who are former foster youth or returning citizens, are at greater risk of basic needs insecurity. The Hope Center’s findings point to a need for an evolution of programmatic work to advance cultural shifts on college campuses, engagement with community organizations and the private sector, more robust emergency aid programs, and a basic needs-centered approach to government policy at all levels.

    Read the full report
  • How Simple Blood Tests Could Revolutionize Cancer Treatment
    February 21, 2020

    When 49-year-old Star Dolbier landed at the University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center in the summer of 2018 with a large mass on her left lung, she’d done enough research to know the situation was dire. So when she met with her new oncologist, Dolbier was surprised to learn that the medical center was part of a research trial that would analyze tiny fragments of cancer DNA that the tumor had shed in her blood. The results revealed that she was part of the 15 percent of lung cancer patients with a mutation in their EGFR gene, which made her eligible for a new drug treatment that been approved just four months earlier for patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer. The drug is part of a new generation of targeted therapies that work according to patients’ unique biology. Dolbier is a poster child for the potential of precision medicine in oncology—the rapidly expanding field in which doctors use insights from patients’ DNA to better understand what drives their disease and prescribe personalized drug treatments, rather than resorting to a one-size-fits-all standard of care. Last year saw the approval of more than two dozen such drugs, and over the next two years, analysts predict that the number of new personalized treatments will outnumber those for the general population. As part of this whirlwind of innovation, more cancer centers are setting up genetic sequencing labs, and more oncologists are advising patients to get their tumor tissue genetically sequenced. Yet scientists are also hoping to learn the deeper secrets of cancer from our blood, which they believe offers more comprehensive information about the complexity of a patient’s cancer. “The existing technology we have available is imaging scans and surgical tissue biopsies. Both are powerful but limited,” says Viktor Adalsteinsson, associate director of the Gerstner Center for Cancer Diagnostics at the Broad Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts. “Imaging can’t see the smallest cancers and can lead to inconclusive results. Surgical biopsies are invasive and painful and can’t be done repeatedly throughout care." New technology aims to identify a returning cancer’s DNA presence long before a new tumor grows big enough to be seen again on a conventional scan and when treatment is likely to be more effective. The Gerstner Center for Cancer Diagnostics is developing blood-based biopsies for tracking disease progression and other cancer diagnostics that may potentially benefit millions of patients worldwide.

    Read more at smithsonianmag.com
    Read more on the Gerstner Center for Cancer Diagnostics