by Buck Institute

$1.25 million bequest funds first named professorship at Buck Institute

Buck Institute breast cancer researcher Christopher Benz, MD, received the Institute’s first named professorship following a $1.25 million bequest from a long-time donor and family member. His new title is “Elizabeth M. A. Stevens Professor of Cancer and Developmental Therapeutics.”

Elizabeth Stevens was the aunt of Dr. Benz’s wife, Connie. She lived in Cape Cod, Massachusetts and died last April at the age of 91. She supported Dr. Benz’s research for nearly 30 years with regular annual gifts and included this final bequest in her will.

“Aunt Libby’s generosity has been a source of continuing encouragement over many years and I am honored that she chose to include this gift in her last wishes,” said Dr. Benz, who described her as spry, thrifty, strong-minded and independent. Elizabeth Stevens worked for 45 years, retiring from the Massachusetts Rating Bureau in 1986 as vice president and treasurer. Married and widowed twice, she traveled extensively and was very active in her local community and church. She had no direct descendants but frequent family reunions in Cape Cod helped her keep close ties with her nieces and nephews and their families.

Dr. Benz is a founding faculty member of the Buck Institute involved in bench-to-bedside and community efforts to reduce the incidence of breast cancer and improve patient outcomes. He is a practicing oncologist at the Carol Franc Buck Breast Care Center at the University of California, San Francisco. Dr. Benz was instrumental in organizing the Marin Women’s Study, which was officially launched in 2006 to detect lifestyle patterns and individual biofactors contributing to breast cancer risk in Marin County, where incidence rates of one particular form of the disease were once among the highest in the world.

The Benz lab was among the first to study why age is such an important determinant for the onset and development of breast cancer. In a search for personalized treatments targeted to each patient’s individual breast cancer subtype, Dr. Benz explores the genetic and structural differences among different breast cancers.

He is also active in The Cancer Genome Atlas program (TCGA), a national effort to decode cancer based on its genetic and molecular origins. The TCGA is funded by the National Cancer Institute and the National Human Genome Research Institute involving 150 researchers at more than two dozen institutions nationwide. “I remain most grateful for Elizabeth’s generosity and am glad that this named professorship will serve as an appropriate and long lasting legacy to her name and charitable giving to the Buck Institute,” said Dr. Benz.

Science is showing that while chronological aging is inevitable, biological aging is malleable. There's a part of it that you can fight, and we are getting closer and closer to winning that fight.

Eric Verdin, MD, Buck Institute President and CEO

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