Last December, 85-year-old Robert Klump joined members of his family for a gathering on the Washington University Medical Campus with Ramaswamy Govindan, MD, the physician who treats him for lung cancer. Unbeknownst to Mr. Klump, the December 22 event was more than a celebration of his good health. His son, Michael, also brought the group together to reveal to his father that he and his wife, Elizabeth, had made a $1 million pledge to establish the Robert L. Klump Lung Cancer Research Initiative in the Division of Oncology at the School of Medicine.
“I think he was a little blown away,” says Michael Klump, founder of Atlanta-based private equity firm Argonne Capital Group and real estate investment company RCG Ventures. “He told me he thought it was one of the best days of his life.”
The occasion provided a happy ending for a story that began several years ago when Robert Klump, who lives in St. Louis, began experiencing hip and back pain. Michael brought him to Atlanta, where he was diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer. An oncologist there referred Robert to Dr. Govindan at the Alvin J. Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine.
Fortunately for Robert, Dr. Govindan, the Anheuser-Busch Endowed Chair in Medical Oncology, is a leading expert in lung cancer research and treatment. His group was one of the first to comprehensively study alterations in the genomes of lung cancer patients. And he has served as lead investigator for multiple clinical trials evaluating targeted therapies for lung cancer.
Based on biomarker testing of Robert’s tumor cells, Dr. Govindan recommended treatment with pembrolizumab, an immunotherapy drug. This personalized medicine approach is keeping his cancer at bay.
“Mapping genetic alterations in cancer patients has been a major area of investigation at Washington University, and Mr. Klump has benefited from that kind of research,” Dr. Govindan says. “He’s doing quite well, with minimum side effects.”
Grateful for the care Robert has received, Michael and Elizabeth Klump made a commitment last fall to support Dr. Govindan’s research through their family foundation. Their gift will bolster the physician-researcher’s efforts to exploit weaknesses in lung cancer cells using genomic approaches.
“When I met Dr. Govindan, he told me about his work,” Michael says. “It really impressed me. Having grown up in St. Louis, I knew Washington University had a reputation for excellence in medicine, but I didn’t realize it was such a research hub. Elizabeth and I wanted to get involved. We hope our gift will help future patients with lung cancer.”
Dr. Govindan is grateful for the couple’s generosity. “This donation will allow us generate preliminary findings that we hope to leverage to secure additional funding through federal grants,” he says. “This is a great example of how philanthropy can advance research. Gifts from donors like the Klumps help us expand our impact and translate breakthrough discoveries into clinical care.”
—By Mary Lee
Contact us to learn more about supporting the Alvin J. Siteman Cancer Center.