— -- The Oregon Health and Science University has received a $1 billion donation for cancer research, Phil Knight, the billionaire founder and CEO of Nike, announced this morning on “Good Morning America.”
The announcement fulfills the ambitious fundraising goal known as the Knight Cancer Challenge. In 2013, Knight and his wife, Penny, pledged to give OHSU $500 million provided that the organization could raise a matching $500 million in two years’ time.
“We did it,” Knight said in an interview with “Good Morning America” co-anchor Robin Roberts. “OHSU got the other $500 million for a total of $1 billion to contribute to cancer.”
Knight made the announcement on “GMA” with Dr. Brian Druker, the director of Oregon Health & Science University's Knight Cancer Institute.
The Knights had previously given $100 million to OHSU in 2008.
Knight, 77, called the achievement “a fabulous moment for OHSU, for people fighting cancer and for the state of Oregon,” adding: “Let me say this, for us to make this announcement on a program hosted by a person who so successfully fought cancer and became a symbol of hope for so many cancer victims, it's really a special and almost poetic moment for me, and we thank you.”
Roberts, who is a breast cancer survivor, asked Druker what the gift would mean to the institute’s work.
“Well, first of all, we're incredibly grateful to the Knight family for inspiring this momentum. But now we can turn our full focus on attacking cancer as aggressively as it comes after us with this $1 billion investment,” he said.
When Roberts asked Knight why this cause was so important to him and his wife, he explained that, shortly after he made his first pledge to OSHU, he was at a dinner event where a woman credited Druker with saving her son’s life.
“Her 12-year-old son was diagnosed with terminal cancer … And by the time that dinner happened, the child was in remission and leading an active life,” Knight said.
Knight called Druker “a champion.”
“He hides it well with his modesty. I use to call it false modesty, but he really is modest,” Knight said, laughing. “But he's a genius.”
He said Druker has some “truly remarkable” work at OHSU.
“They have 40 new cancer research doctors up there … and they're on the move. And they're going to win,” Knight added.
Druker explained that researchers’ focus would be on early cancer detection, “when it's more curable, when it's more easy to treat … and save people from having to go through chemotherapy or radiation or other debilitating treatments.”
Their work, Druker said, would be “setting the stage for moving from advanced cancer to early detection and ultimately to prevention.”
Knight said everybody has a connection to cancer. His own father died of leukemia and a beloved aunt of breast cancer. Druker lost his father and brother to cancer, and his wife also lost her mother to the disease. He says he and his colleagues “want to go after cancer as aggressively as it comes after us.”
“Every day I go to clinic and I have patients who were told they had months to live, get your affairs in order,” Druker said. “And because of the drug we developed, Gleevec, for leukemia called chronic myeloid leukemia, some of them are 15, 16 years out.
“So I can see the impact we can make by attacking cancer at its very roots. We want to do that for everybody.”