News

  • IU School of Medicine names first Walther Scholar in Psycho-Oncology

    IU School of Medicine names first Walther Scholar in Psycho-Oncology

    INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana University School of Medicine has named Shelley Johns, PsyD, ABPP, the Walther Scholar in Psycho-Oncology.

    Johns is the first person to hold this position, which was established by the transformative $14 million gift to IU School of Medicine from the Walther Cancer Foundation to create five endowed positions to develop a supportive oncology program that encompasses research and patient care. Supportive oncology goes beyond standard therapies such as surgery, chemotherapy and radiation and seeks to care for a patient’s overall physical, mental and spiritual well-being.

    The program intends to influence care for cancer patients and their families throughout Indiana and the country by providing expertise and best practices for other health systems to model, with particular attention to the underserved.

    “Thanks to the generous support of the Walther Cancer Foundation, I have the opportunity to explore new ideas to address problems that are most important to people whose lives are disrupted by cancer,” Johns said. “I want to capitalize on the synergy that I already see and feel between clinical practice and research so we can develop studies that are informed by people with cancer and then implement our research findings in clinical practice.”

    Johns is a nationally-recognized, board-certified, clinical health psychologist, an associate professor at IU School of Medicine in the Division of General Internal Medicine and Geriatrics, an IU Simon Comprehensive Cancer Center researcher and a research scientist at the William M. Tierney Center for Health Services Research at the Regenstrief Institute. Her research focuses on developing and testing mind-body interventions to improve the physical health and psychological well-being of adults with cancer. She currently holds a $2.6 million grant from the National Cancer Institute to lead a clinical trial to support breast cancer survivors struggling with fear of cancer recurrence.

    As the Walther Scholar in Psycho-Oncology, Johns will develop programs in psycho-oncology within the newly established Supportive Oncology Center of Excellence at the IU Simon Comprehensive Cancer Center.

    “We are very fortunate to recruit Dr. Johns to the newly established Supportive Oncology Center of Excellence in the cancer center, which will be the hub for our cutting-edge efforts in research, education and clinical care in supporting the important needs of our cancer patients and their families,” Kelvin Lee, MD, cancer center director, said. “Dr. Johns’ exceptional work in psycho-oncology will be a major pillar of the center.”

    “Dr. Johns is a great addition to improving the total care of patients living with cancer who we see at the cancer center. Shelley’s work will be critical to the Supportive Oncology Center of Excellence in improving clinical care, research and education,” James Cleary, MD, professor of medicine and Walther Senior Chair in Supportive Oncology at IU School of Medicine, said. Cleary was recruited in 2018 to IU as part of the Walther gift, which was believed to be the largest gift in the country to support a program of this kind.

    “Dr. Johns does very rigorous and sophisticated research aimed at providing the evidence base for treating highly prevalent and challenging symptoms in patients with cancer,” said Greg Sachs, MD, director of the Division of General Internal Medicine and Geriatrics. “She also represents another critical connection between our palliative care program and the cancer center.”

    “Shelley Johns is a highly talented and insightful researcher. The Walther Cancer Foundation has provided support for certain aspects of Dr. John’s work for more than ten years. We are truly pleased that Shelley has been selected as the first Walther Scholar in Psycho-Oncology,” said Tom Grein, president and CEO of the Walther Cancer Foundation.

    ###

    IU School of Medicine is the largest medical school in the U.S. and is annually ranked among the top medical schools in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. The school offers high-quality medical education, access to leading medical research and rich campus life in nine Indiana cities, including rural and urban locations consistently recognized for livability.

  • Vera Bradley Foundation for Breast Cancer makes $12.5 million commitment to Indiana University School of Medicine

    Vera Bradley Foundation for Breast Cancer makes $12.5 million commitment to Indiana University School of Medicine

    INDIANAPOLIS — A gift commitment of $12.5 million to Indiana University School of Medicine from the Vera Bradley Foundation for Breast Cancer will support new research to harness immunotherapy for breast cancer treatment.

    This gift from the Vera Bradley Foundation brings the non-profit’s total commitments in breast cancer research funding since 2000 to $50 million. The Foundation’s ongoing support led to the 2018 creation of the Vera Bradley Foundation Center for Breast Cancer Research at the Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Comprehensive Cancer Center where more than 30 investigators collaborate on breast cancer discoveries.

    Support from the Vera Bradley Foundation has aided the IU School of Medicine in amassing talent, technology, and resources to become a national leader in targeted breast cancer therapies, specifically for triple negative breast cancer. For example, Bryan P. Schneider, MD, Vera Bradley Professor of Oncology at IU School of Medicine, is leading a nationwide study to develop personalized therapies for triple negative breast cancer patients with funding from the Vera Bradley Foundation. The study builds on groundbreaking findings by Schneider and other IU researchers.

    Since 2004, more than 1,300 discoveries have been published in peer-reviewed journals by IU breast cancer researchers.

    The Vera Bradley Foundation’s latest funding commitment will help launch immunotherapy research efforts to develop better therapies for triple negative breast cancer, an aggressive form of breast cancer that is often not responsive to hormone therapies and is resistant to chemotherapy. Immunotherapy uses the body’s immune system to target and destroy cancer cells.

    “To say we’ve ‘donated’ $37.5 million for breast cancer research doesn’t tell our story. To date, the foundation has provided $37.5 million of life changing research that has and will continue to impact women and their loved ones all over the globe,” Ruth Cook, chair of the Vera Bradley Foundation board, said. “We’ve invested in a team of the best, the brightest, and the most passionate researchers in the world. Our research team is relentlessly pursuing critical advancements that have and will continue to change the face of breast cancer forever.

    “Our goal is to have a breast cancer diagnosis become an inconvenience rather than an overwhelming presence,” she added. “We are confident our new pledge of $12.5 million will mean more women can enjoy long and thriving lives well beyond their breast cancer diagnosis.”

    “The Vera Bradley Foundation has been an unwavering source of support and inspiration at IU School of Medicine for the last 23 years. This new gift will help us take the next step in conquering breast cancer—one we’ve had in our sights for years,” said Jay L. Hess, MD, PhD, MHSA, dean of IU School of Medicine and IU’s executive vice president for university clinical affairs. “The foundation has benefitted and provided hope for countless women with the most difficult-to-treat breast cancers. We are tremendously grateful for their partnership and generosity.”

    Earlier this year, Mateusz Opyrchal, MD, PhD, joined IU as the inaugural Vera Bradley Foundation Scholar in Breast Cancer Discovery at IU School of Medicine and as co-leader of the cancer center’s experimental and development therapeutics research program. He most recently was at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, where he was an associate professor of medicine and an associate director of cellular and gene therapeutics program in solid tumors.

    Opyrchal’s research focuses on novel therapeutic approaches and enhancing immune responses in triple negative breast cancer. His recruitment, made possible by Vera Bradley Foundation funding, expands IU’s leadership and knowledge base for the immunotherapy initiative with the goal of developing innovative approaches to help patients with this disease.

    In addition to precision medicine and immunotherapy, research at IU’s Vera Bradley Foundation Center for Breast Cancer Research includes efforts in prevention, early detection, improved treatments for curable disease, and survivorship.

    “I and the entire cancer research and care team here at the IU Simon Comprehensive Cancer Center are enormously grateful for the significant and sustained support we have received from the Vera Bradley Foundation,” said Kelvin Lee, MD, director of both the IU Simon Comprehensive Cancer Center and IU’s Vera Bradley Foundation Center for Breast Cancer Research. “This remarkable gift will enable our researchers in the Vera Bradley Foundation Center for Breast Cancer Research to continue their pioneering work in lifting the burden of breast cancer. Research cures cancer and such generous philanthropy fuels that research.”

    View and download photos, videos and more information about the Vera Bradley Foundation and breast cancer research at IU School of Medicine and IU Simon Comprehensive Cancer Center.

    ###

    ABOUT VERA BRADLEY FOUNDATION FOR BREAST CANCER

    The Vera Bradley Foundation for Breast Cancer raises funds for breast cancer research to find a cure and to improve the lives of the many affected by this disease. The Foundation has contributed $37.5 million to the Vera Bradley Foundation Center for Breast Cancer Research at the Indiana University School of Medicine. The Center is focused on developing and dramatically improving therapies for some of the most difficult-to-treat types of breast cancer. Funds are raised through special events, partner events, and individual donations. Learn more about the Vera Bradley Foundation for Breast Cancer at www.verabradley.org.

    ABOUT INDIANA UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE

    IU School of Medicine is the largest medical school in the U.S. and is annually ranked among the top medical schools in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. The school offers high-quality medical education, access to leading medical research and rich campus life in nine Indiana cities, including rural and urban locations consistently recognized for livability.

    Press Contacts:

    Stephanie Scheele, Vera Bradley Chief Purpose and Communication Officer
    sscheele@verabradley.com
    260.207.5185

    Anna Shelton, Vera Bradley Foundation Communication Specialist
    ashelton@verabradley.com
    260.207.5252

    Candace Gwaltney, IU Simon Comprehensive Cancer Center science writer
    cmgwaltn@iu.edu
    317.278.4322

See all news »