Research Legacy

A Quest to Help Others

Former cancer patient Bob Tanner always kept a handwritten note in his wallet that read, “I would like my legacy to be a celebration of life by helping to alleviate the pain and suffering of people in general!” 

Today, that vision is coming true. Before pancreatic cancer claimed Tanner’s life, he pledged $3 million to support UVA cancer research through the Robert Edison and Hermie Tillman Tanner Medical Research Fund. The fund, which honors Tanner and his late wife Hermie, generates annual, ongoing support for innovative cancer research. 

At a recent White Coat Lab Tour event, Tanner’s close friend and former financial adviser visited, for the first time, the labs of some of UVA’s leading cancer researchers. That firsthand experience gave her a glimpse into the groundbreaking work that Tanner’s gift will make possible.

“It was inspiring to see all of the research taking place. Not a lot of people know how much research is going on and how it can affect lives for many years to come. Bob Tanner was an individual who wanted to support medicine because he knew that he could make a difference in many lives.” 

Bob Klesges, PhD, co-directs UVA’s Center for Addiction and Prevention. Klesges is collaborating on research with colleagues in Virginia and beyond.
(Photo: University of Virginia)

In the coming months, income from the Tanner Fund will support cancer research related to tobacco use. The research will be led by new UVA recruit Bob Klesges, PhD, and his colleagues. Klesges, a professor of public health sciences, co-directs UVA’s Center for Addiction and Prevention. This multidisciplinary group works to assess health risk behaviors and develop effective interventions and policies for communities aimed at reducing cancer risk. 

“Of all high-risk medical populations, no group needs to quit smoking more than cancer patients and survivors,” says Klesges. “Quitting, even after a cancer diagnosis, increases treatment outcomes, reduces treatment complications, and decreases mortality. UVA researchers have developed, and are testing, innovative methods to achieve smoking cessation with cancer survivors. Additional research is sorely needed to treat arguably the most important behavior change that cancer patients and survivors need to make.” 

Through his vision and support, Bob Tanner has created a legacy of cancer research, driven by his desire to alleviate pain and suffering. The fund bearing his name will give generations of researchers the resources to develop new ways to treat—and perhaps even prevent—cancer.   

To learn more about supporting research at UVA Cancer Center, please click here.

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