Billionaire Donates $25 Million to VA for Personalized Cancer Care

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Billionaire, Denny Sanford, is funding a special genetic testing program to improve VA cancer care. The program will help improve patient care and reduce costs by determining the best medications for individual patients.

The Department of Veterans Affairs has received a generous donation of $25 million to improve cancer care for veterans. Private funding like this plays a critical role in advancing cancer care and improving quality of life for those who served our country. The VA expects that the money will have a significant impact, helping about 250,000 veterans into the year 2022.

The money is funding a special testing program to develop personalized cancer treatment for veterans based on their DNA. Currently, it’s difficult for doctors to determine how a patient will respond to cancer treatment. This testing program hopes to change that.

VA Cancer Care Receives Private Funding From Air Force Veteran

The generous donation comes from a man named Denny Sanford, an Air Force veteran and South Dakota businessman.

Sanford subscribes to the growing trend among philanthropists of giving away their net worth while they are still alive. He prefers this over creating foundations that pay out much smaller amounts of money over time. The idea is to make a more substantial, short-term impact.

This donation is not Sanford’s first large gift. Sanford has already given away over $1 billion of his fortune and hopes to continue until he’s exhausted all of his funds. He’s already donated large amounts of money to medical research, clinical centers and neglected children.

After a donation of $400 million to Sandford Health in 2007, the hospital system was named after him. Now, Sandford Health is partnering with the VA to provide a zero-cost pharmacogenetic testing program with the help of Sanford’s donation.

About Pharmacogenomics Action for Cancer Survivorship

Sanford’s most recent $25 million donation is going towards a program called Pharmacogenomics Action for Cancer Survivorship (PHASeR). Pharmacogenetic testing involves testing your genes to determine how your body will respond to certain medications.

The genetic testing will help doctors select the right drugs and dosages for each patient. This makes treatment more effective and reduces the risk of adverse reactions.

Adverse drug reactions are not only problematic for patients, but they end up costing about $30 billion per year.

For cancer patients, genetic testing can help prevent negative reactions to chemotherapy. Chemotherapy can reach toxic levels in people whose bodies metabolize the drug differently, but without testing, doctors cannot predict this ahead of time. Genetic testing would help patients avoid these damaging side effects.

Doctors can also use testing to select other types of drugs, including pain medications, antidepressants and blood thinners. For example, the tests would determine which anti-nausea medications will work best for each patient.

This is a significant breakthrough in personalized cancer treatment. Until now, genetic testing has been too costly for veterans in the VA system. The genetic testing program will give doctors an idea of how patients will react to medication before they even take it, allowing them to tailor care to each veteran.

Cancer and Mesothelioma Care at VA Hospitals

The VA hopes that the genetic testing program will be available at 125 facilities by 2022. Veterans in the VA system will be able to receive testing at no cost. For veterans with mesothelioma, this testing will play a critical role in treatment and symptom management.

If you’ve been diagnosed with mesothelioma, there are many reasons to take advantage of VA cancer care. Veterans can receive high-quality treatment at specialized mesothelioma centers in Boston and Los Angeles. At these facilities, the VA system provides veterans access to top mesothelioma specialists, including Dr. Avi Lebenthal.

If you developed mesothelioma after serving in the military, file for compensation through the VA so you can get access to life-prolonging treatments and high-quality care. Contact the Mesothelioma Veterans Center for help reviewing your legal options.

Veterans Support Team
Christopher Dryfoos PhotoWritten by:

Contributing Author

Christopher Dryfoos is a journalist and member of the American Medical Writers Association (AMWA). As the grandson of the U.S. Navy’s first forensic pathologist, he aims to help veterans with mesothelioma access needed care.

  1. “VA Receives $25 Million Donation to Provide Genetic Testing for Veterans” Military Advantage. Retrieved from Accessed on April 11, 2019.
  2. “With $25M donation, Sanford to help VA bring precision medicine to veterans” Duluth News Tribune and Forum Communications Company. Retrieved from Accessed on April 11, 2019.
  3. “A Billionaire, Intent on "Dying Broke," Keeps the Big Gifts Flowing” Inside Philanthropy. Retrieved from Accessed on April 11, 2019.
  4. “Sanford Health, VA create partnership to help veterans’ care” Sandford Health. Retrieved from Accessed on April 11, 2019.