One Couple's Generosity Fosters Cancer Discovery


Though it has been years since Joel Altschule (BS, Pharmacy, ’71) practiced pharmacy, a recent groundbreaking gift could allow him to forever make a difference in the area of drug discovery and the treatment of cancer.

JoelAltschuleA gift from Joel and his wife, Jody, is being used in collaboration between The Ohio State University College of Pharmacy and The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute. The university’s Drug Development Institute, which focuses on accelerating drug discovery and development through collaboration and results-based project management, serves as the intermediary between the two organizations.

Last year, College of Pharmacy professor Chenglong Li, PhD, created the drug PhD LY-5 in silico, or via computer simulation. A cell line study by the National Cancer Institute demonstrated that Li’s discovery has the potential to become a “best-in-class” drug, targeting multiple disease states including melanoma, oral carcinoma, glioma, sarcoma, lung (large cell), ovarian and pancreatic cancer. Greg Lesinski, PhD, MPH, from the Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Medical Oncology, and his research team at the James were ready to confirm the NCI’s findings, but lacked the quantity of drug needed to begin exploratory studies.

“The Altschules’ gift will allow the team to obtain the first pharmaceutical grade batches of this promising cancer drug,” said Tom Dauber, College of Pharmacy senior director of advancement. “This will allow us to demonstrate its safety and efficacy so that we can take the steps needed to move this molecule from the bench to the bedside.”

The opportunity to fund drug discovery was the result of a series of factors, said Altschule. Before becoming a financial advisor in the mid-1980s, he was a working pharmacist and owned a pharmacy. “The skills required for both careers are the same,” he said. “You listen, you understand problems, and you develop a course of action.”

Like so many, Altschule also had experience with cancer. His mother died of advanced colon cancer. His brother also had colon cancer, and died some years late from kidney failure brought on by his cancer treatment. His sister-in-law, a patient at the James, succumbed to pancreatic cancer.
Last spring, his sister was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, but her prognosis is good. 

A six-time Pelotonia rider, Altschule was aware of the work of the James, but had not experienced the level of care that is at the heart of the hospital. “Dr. (Michael) Caligiuri was a Pelotonia acquaintance, and stepped up and gave my sister-in-law great care,” he said. “But the level of kindness, caring and coordination was across the university.”

“With my background in pharmacy, this one (gift) just felt right,” said Altschule.

This is not the first time the Altschules have supported the college. They initiated The William and Anne Altschule Professional Student Scholarship and Endowed Fund in Pharmacy in 1999. The fund provides scholarships to deserving Pharmacy students.

“We came from a history of giving, that’s just the way it is,” he said.