The Indianapolis-based Walther Cancer Foundation has awarded a $14 million gift to the Indiana University School of Medicine. The university says the gift will create a supportive oncology program aimed at helping patients and their families manage the symptoms, pain and stress associated with a cancer diagnosis.

IU says the Walther Supportive Oncology Program, which will be developed in partnership with Indiana University Health, will go beyond the standard therapies, such as surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. The program will also aim to "care for a patient's overall physical, mental and spiritual well-being."

"More than 35,000 Hoosiers are diagnosed with cancer each year, and the disease affects each of them in complex and unique ways," IU President Michael McRobbie said in a news release. "This magnificent gift will dramatically improve the lives of these individuals and their families and have far-reaching impacts beyond Indiana by enabling IU faculty experts to build a supportive oncology program that others will emulate."

The gift will create five endowed faculty positions at the IU School of Medicine, including a leader in supportive oncology to direct the program, a senior leader in psychiatry or psychology with a focus on cancer patients, and at least three other experts. IU says the program will feature services such as:

  • Pain management
  • Management of symptoms such as nausea, fatigue and neuropathy
  • Psychological and psychiatric services, which are critically important for cancer patients who frequently experience depression, pain and anxiety
  • Spiritual care
  • Assistance navigating financial concerns, transportation issues and at-home support
  • Complementary services such as nutrition assistance, smoking cessation and other types of behavior modification
  • Systematic communication about patients’ values and preferences

"Through research and innovation, we will develop a supportive oncology program that will be a model for the nation," said Jay Hess, vice president for university clinical affairs at IU and dean of IU School of Medicine. "Just as we are continuing to advance cancer treatments by personalizing therapies, we must reimagine the way care is delivered so we are able to tailor support services for each patient and family. We will bring to bear existing resources, recruit some of the best minds in the field, and make this vision a reality for cancer patients."