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Patient gives $30 million gift to Dana-Farber for cancer research

Dana-Farber gift aims to probe basic questions

Building things and solving problems are woven into Albert Marcotte’s DNA.

The Plymouth native helped build his first house at age 12, and he launched a company after graduate school that used computer simulators to teach business executives how to make better decisions at a time when computers were foreign territory to most people.

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The 75-year-old management consultant hopes his latest venture will help solve one of medicine’s most intractable problems — cancer. Marcotte is donating $30 million to Dana-Farber Cancer Institute to expand research initiatives. It’s the second-largest gift from a single donor in the hospital’s history, according to Dana-Farber. The largest, $50 million, was received a few years ago from a donor who wishes to remain anonymous.

Marcotte “gave this to support our entire effort in cancer research, not just a particular disease or program,” said Dr. Edward Benz Jr., Dana-Farber’s president and chief executive. “This really allows us to invest in fundamental basic research that will ultimately be the game changer for cancer.”

Benz said many of the institute’s donations come from former patients, who typically target their money for research into their particular form of cancer. Marcotte’s gift will allow scientists to instead delve into some of the most basic cancer questions that Benz believes will ultimately be the key to developing successful therapies for many types of cancer.

“It’s the hardest kind of research to raise donor funds for,” he said.

Marcotte’s donation will be used to establish the Marcotte Center for Cancer Research across the street from Dana-Farber’s Yawkey Center for Cancer Care in Boston’s Longwood Medical Area.

‘I have a fundamental belief that cancer can eventually be cured.’

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Dana-Farber, as have many medical and science organizations, has been racing to raise money amid dwindling federal dollars for research.

Marcotte, who was treated at Dana-Farber for prostate cancer in 2003 and remains a patient, said his many trips to the hospital allowed him to study the organization and its leadership team, the very type of assessments he has been doing for companies around the world as founder and chief executive of Advanced Management Systems, the company he started in 1979 after graduate school at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

“Dana-Farber is unique in that it has an equal commitment to research and patient care,” Marcotte said.

“I investigated a number of places, and you don’t find that balance.”

Marcotte said he hopes his gift — he calls it an investment — will foster a greater awareness of the need for funding and inspire additional gifts from others.

“Research provides hope for the future,” Marcotte said.

“I have a fundamental belief that cancer can eventually be cured.” he said.

“It will take work. It will take time. It can be done.”

Kay Lazar can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @GlobeKayLazar.
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