In December the VF Board of Directors selected Dr. Felipe Andrade’s study “Defining an animal model for the study of Wegener’s Granulomatosis” for a one-year grant of $75,000. With this grant award, the VF Research Program has now funded 23 studies and over $1,000,000 in research. The VF is the largest private funder of research on vasculitis in the world.
Nancy Olona, past president of the WGA (now VF) and Dr. Richard Erickson, former chair of the Research Program, were instrumental in establishing the Research Program. As she reminisced recently, Nancy said, “When my niece, Jessica, age six, was diagnosed with Wegener’s in 1999, I dreamt of finding a cure. In July of that year, I met with Iva Roe and the WGA Board of Directors.
With encouragement and support from Iva, Dr. Erickson, Joyce Kullman and many others, we began the first fundraising for research with a walk/run in Littleton, Colorado. We were amazed how successful the walk was, and fundraising for research began. So many people became involved with walks, golfing tournaments, motorcycle rides, fishing tournaments, and the like throughout the country. Dr. Erickson then developed and implemented the Research Program on a much larger scale, and from there it continued to grow. It is amazing to me how far this research program has come. The dream is coming true. Congratulations to everyone who has made research a reality.”
The first grant was awarded in 2002, in the amount of $35,000, to Dr. Gary S. Hoffman and Dr. Alexandra Villa-Forte of the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, Center for Vasculitis Care and Research. Their study “Short-Term Cyclophosphamide Therapy in a Cohort of Over 200 Patients” examined the long-term effects of cyclophosphamide on Wegener’s patients and changed the way patients are treated for mild to moderate Wegener’s granulomatosis, demonstrating that remission can be achieved with limited or no use of cyclophosphamide therapy.
The ultimate goal of VF-funded research is to decrease the morbidity and mortality of vasculitic diseases. Fortunately, the research of one form of vasculitis is relevant to all other forms of vasculitis. Because there are many stepping stones along the way to finding a cure, the VF sponsors research into a wide range of vasculitis-related areas.
Dr. Don Gebhart, chair of the Research Program, adds, “The awarding of $1,000,000 in research grants by the VF is a time to celebrate and thank the small and large donors and the hundreds of patients, family members and friends who have helped raise these funds. Our research goals are to fund good scientific studies to improve the quality of life of vasculitis patients, to determine the cause of vasculitis and to add valuable information in the search for a cure of vasculitis. With each study we support we come closer to attaining these goals, and we are grateful to all of those who have helped make this possible.