Couple pledges $10 million gift to head and neck cancer research, treatment

MD Anderson to name the Charles and Daneen Stiefel Center for Head and Neck Cancer

MD Anderson News Release 08/08/2013

Charles and Daneen Stiefel, of Raleigh, N.C., have pledged $10 million to the Head and Neck Cancer Center at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. In honor of their generosity, the institution will name the Charles and Daneen Stiefel Center for Head and Neck Cancer.

Charles Stiefel, former chair and CEO of Stiefel Laboratories, is a member of the MD Anderson Cancer Center Board of Visitors and is active on a key committee that advises the institution on clinical business issues. Devoted to supporting a number of health-related initiatives, the Stiefels are members of the Anderson Assembly, which recognizes donors of $1 million or more to the institution. The couple established the Charles and Daneen Stiefel Chair in Cancer Research in 2009 with a $1 million gift in gratitude for the care Charles received as an MD Anderson patient.

Stiefel sought care at MD Anderson after being diagnosed in Miami in 2006 with squamous cell carcinoma at the base of his tongue. During what he thought was his final checkup, an ultrasound revealed a new malignant tumor on his thyroid gland. That cancer was eliminated through surgery, and today he’s cancer-free.

Stiefel describes his initial diagnosis of advanced stage metastatic head and neck cancer as “terrifying.”

“It became a challenge to focus on anything other than the probability of dying,” he said. “In early January 2007, my wife Daneen and I visited four top cancer centers, and we immediately chose
MD Anderson as the place that would give me the highest chance of survival. The physical facilities
were pristine and welcoming, but, more importantly, all of my doctors were highly respected global
thought leaders in their areas of oncology.”

Stiefel credits his care team, Merrill S. Kies, M.D., professor of Thoracic/Head and Neck Medical Oncology; David I. Rosenthal, M.D., professor of Radiation Oncology; and Randal S. Weber, M.D., chair of Head and Neck Surgery, with saving his life.

“My path to recovery was not an easy one,” said Stiefel. “If not for the incredibly dedicated and skilled oncologists from the Head and Neck Center, I’m certain that I wouldn’t be alive today. I literally owe my life to the physicians and staff, which is why Daneen and I feel humbled and thankful to be able to make this gift. Dr. Weber has conceived several game-changing ideas to improve patient outcomes for future generations, and I’m confident that this gift will help transform these ideas into reality.”

The gift will support research and treatment programs within MD Anderson’s Head and Neck Cancer Program, under Weber’s direction. The Stiefels’ support, said Weber, will help speed efforts to promote and rapidly translate oropharyngeal cancer research into more effective treatments with fewer side effects.

“With their help, we’ll build upon our major contributions to the emerging study of susceptibility to HPV-associated oropharyngeal cancer,” he said.  “Oropharyngeal cancers caused by the HPV virus are a rapidly emerging public health problem. These patients tend to be younger when the disease appears and have minimal or no history of tobacco use. Though effective treatments exist, long-term side effects are significant in driving the search for less toxic therapies.”

The key to future success, said Weber, is a coordinated research effort both in the laboratory and clinic.

“We hope to establish a major biospecimen repository for HPV-associated squamous cell carcinoma, so we can conduct genomic, biological and animal research to identify novel biomarkers and molecular targets for therapy,” he said.  “Pre-clinical discoveries will translate into new therapeutic approaches to be tested in clinical trials.  Philanthropic support is crucial to our comprehensive research and treatment program. Thanks to the Stiefels, we’ll intensify our efforts to halt this disease, control its progression and reverse its malignant course.”

Stiefel earned his Bachelor of Science at Yale University and was valedictorian of his class at Albany Law School. Following law school, he performed legal research for the Appellate Division of the New York State Supreme Court and became a partner in the New York law firm of Bagley, Chadderdon, Pulver & Stiefel. In 2003, he was awarded the South Florida Dermatology Foundation’s Lifetime Achievement Award, and in 2006 he was named Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year in Health Sciences for the State of Florida. In 2007, he was honored with the American Academy of Dermatology’s Distinguished Service Award and the Women’s Dermatologic Society’s Distinguished Corporate Leader Award. In 2009, he was a national finalist in Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year competition. He has served as a consultant in the pharmaceutical industry since July 2009.