Emmanuelle Gattuso and Gary Slaight say they hope Tuesday's gift of $50 million to The Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation to establish the Allan Slaight Breakthrough Fund will encourage more Canadians to support discovery research, contributing to dramatic breakthroughs faster in cancer. (Photo: The PMCF)

Toronto's position as a global centre for breakthrough cancer research has been amplified by a $50 million gift to The Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation in memory of the late Allan Slaight, the Canadian business legend and philanthropist.

This gift comes at a critical time, as cancer diagnoses are expected to rise significantly post-pandemic.

The Allan Slaight Breakthrough Fund will support discovery research at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, one of the world's top five cancer research centres, allowing cancer researchers to approach their work in creative and unconventional ways.

The gift from La Fondation Emmanuelle Gattuso, managed by Emmanuelle Gattuso, wife of the late Allan Slaight, and from The Slaight Family Foundation, managed by Allan's son, Gary Slaight, was announced Tuesday by The Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation, Canada's largest and leading cancer fundraising organization.

"The Allan Slaight Breakthrough Fund comes at a critical moment," said Dr. Miyo Yamashita, President and Chief Executive Officer of The Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation. "Over the last two years, scientific research has been at the forefront of the news cycle and our daily conversations.

"However, we have not been talking about cancer – the leading cause of death in Canada. Research plays a critical role in our efforts to conquer cancer and this extraordinary gift will lead to future breakthroughs, and improved outcomes for patients in Canada, and around the world."

Typically, major gifts are tied to specific programs or outcomes. This makes Tuesday's $50 million undesignated gift to cancer research – and its timing – even more exceptional.

"Scientific breakthroughs are possible, and if they are going to happen anywhere, they'll happen here, at the Princess Margaret," noted Emmanuelle Gattuso and Gary Slaight. "Allan would have loved everything this gift stands for – it reflects his curiosity, creativity, and his belief that talented people will accomplish remarkable, magical things when they are empowered to do so."

Impact of the generosity 'will be felt for decades to come'

The Allan Slaight Breakthrough Fund will bring and retain the next generation of top minds in cancer research, education, and care to Princess Margaret Cancer Centre. This will lead to new breakthroughs with the potential to dramatically reshape our understanding of cancer, fueling more effective diagnostic techniques and therapeutics, ultimately improving how we care for cancer patients.

It will also help to improve equity, diversity, and inclusion in the Canadian scientific community.

"The impact of Emmanuelle Gattuso and Gary Slaight's generosity will be felt for decades to come," said Dr. Kevin Smith, UHN's President & CEO. "The research it will support will help to create A Healthier World and play an important role in advancing the Princess Margaret's vision to Conquer Cancer In Our Lifetime."

Dr. Aaron Schimmer, Director of the Research Institute at the Princess Margaret and a staff physician and Senior Scientist specializing in leukemia, sees the impact of this unconventional approach to research daily.

"Discovery research is an exploration of possibility – the possibility of treatments and outcomes we have yet to imagine," said Dr. Schimmer, who is also a Professor at the University of Toronto. "Groundbreaking results happen when scientists can pursue their curiosity together, in a collaborative community – supported by access to long-term, undesignated funding like the Allan Slaight Breakthrough Fund.

"And this, in turn, supports the patients we treat every day and their families."

In recognition of this transformational gift, the Princess Margaret Research Tower at 101 College Street will be renamed the Allan Slaight Medical Innovation Labs and scientists recruited through the Allan Slaight Breakthrough Fund will be known as the Allan Slaight Scientists.

To promote collaboration in cancer discovery research, Princess Margaret Cancer Centre will also launch the Allan Slaight Breakthrough Forum, an annual event bringing together the world's leading cancer scientists to discuss the next breakthroughs in cancer and provide $1 million annually in collaborative research funding to other leading cancer researchers in Canada.

In 2013, Emmanuelle Gattuso and Allan Slaight donated $50 million to The Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation. The Gattuso Slaight Personalized Medicine Fund has led to many critical breakthroughs in cancer research and treatment, including a simple blood test to detect cancer in its earliest stages.

Emmanuelle Gattuso and Gary Slaight hope Tuesday's gift will encourage more Canadians to support discovery research, contributing to dramatic breakthroughs faster in cancer.

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