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Fighting cancer, preparing prisoners to go home

ASU Women & Philanthropy contributors fund promising ASU research

person holding lab slide
May 03, 2017

Women & Philanthropy, the ASU Foundation-based program that brings together donors who vote on programs they will fund at the university, announced today three ASU projects to receive its 2016–2017 grants.

The group awarded at total of $251,029 to two promising cancer-therapy studies underway in the ASU Biodesign Institute’s Center for Infectious Diseases and Vaccinology, as well as a prisoner-education program developed by students in the College of Public Service and Community Solutions that equips ex-inmates to return to their communities and families.

“Cancer kills more than a half a million people every year,” said Rona Kasen, volunteer co-chair of Women & Philanthropy.

“Women & Philanthropy members are pleased to support the work of groundbreaking researchers in ASU Biodesign who are developing such promising anti-cancer therapies. As we do every year with our funding, our members support ASU research and programs that will make real headway against persistent societal problems.

“That’s why we also chose to support The Arizona Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program. Sending former prisoners home without the support they need to re-enter society sets them up to fail. This program prepares them to succeed.”

Women & Philanthropy is one of three volunteer engagement programs of the ASU Foundation. Its approximately 250 members pool their annual individual contributions — a minimum of $1,000 — and then vote on ASU programs to support. Since its founding in 2003, Women & Philanthropy has contributed $3.4 million to 83 ASU programs.

This year’s funding will advance:

• The ASU Biodesign Institute’s Center for Infectious Diseases and Vaccinology “Anti-Cancer Viral Therapy” study.

According to the study, new strategies are offering hope to patients whose cancer resists chemotherapy. In particular, the center has developed mutants of the virus used to vaccinate against smallpox that do not harm healthy cells, but that kill many types of cancer.

Center researchers have begun to understand why mutant cells kill cancer; this funding will allow them to explore viral anti-cancer therapies.

• The ASU Biodesign Institute’s Center for Infectious Diseases and Vaccinology “Natural Botanical-Based Therapy for Cervical Cancer” study.

Previous work identified a carnivorous plant that unleashes anti-viral activity against the Human papillomaviruses, or HPV, a common virus spread through sexual contact that is often leads to cervical cancer, the fourth most frequent cause of cancer in women.

Women & Philanthropy funding will allow researchers to define the specific mechanism animating the botanical, evaluate it against more cervical cancer lines, understand other potential uses, and identify side effects.

• The College of Public Service and Community Solutions School of Criminology and Criminal Justice’s “Learning by Doing: The Arizona Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program.”

The first of its kind in Arizona, this program brought ASU students to the medium security prison in Florence, where they studied issues of crime, justice, and victimization. They developed three projects that were implemented by the Arizona Department of Corrections:

- a re-entry packet of resources to prepare ex-prisoners to successfully reintegrate into society
- a family reunification program to assist families impacted by incarceration
- a victim intervention class that educates inmates on the effects of crime on victims

Arizona imprisons 43,000 individuals — 95 percent of whom will return to their communities. They are parents to an estimated 53,000 children, researchers say, pointing to the need support families impacted by incarceration. This funding will enable the program to offer two more courses next year and document the impact of the program.

All Women & Philanthropy funding contributes to the success of Campaign ASU 2020, the ASU community’s comprehensive campaign to raise at least $1.5 billion to support students, faculty, discovery and creativity, community partnerships, and Sun Devil competitiveness. Learn more at

For more information, contact Lexi Killoren, senior director of engagement programs for the ASU Foundation, at 480-965-0878 or

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