In June 1958, Karin Grunebaum, the 39 year-old mother of 4 and a loving wife, suddenly passed away from cancer only three months after giving birth to her youngest child. Because her pregnancy had masked the symptoms of the malignancy, the disease had already metastasized throughout her entire body by the time the cancer of unknown primary site was diagnosed. No one was able to determine the type of cancer which afflicted her. After Karin passed away, her husband, Fritz Grunebaum, established the Karin Grunebaum Cancer Research Foundation as a lasting memory to his beloved wife to help other families avoid this type of tragedy.
Accordingly, our Foundation is dedicated to the eradication of each and every type of cancer. When the Foundation was first established in the pre-computer days of 1958, it initially created a manual cancer registry at Salem Hospital in Massachusetts so that doctors and staff could review relevant medical information about other patients with similar cancers who had passed through that facility. Later, it was decided to “invest in people” instead of technology. In 1966, under Fritz’s guidance, and with the help of Harvard Medical School, we started to fund cancer related research by 3rd year medical students at Harvard Medical School. At the beginning, we were only able to fund one researcher annually. But, by 1979, we were able to fund two researchers each year. Next, the Foundation established an annual Distinguished Speaker in Cancer Research Series, which was only discontinued when we started to fund two M.D./Ph.D cancer researchers at Boston University’s School of Medicine every year in addition to the Harvard researchers.
In 2002, the Karin Grunebaum Chair in Cancer Research was established at the Boston University School of Medicine. This Chair, the first of its kind, is intended to be cross-disciplinary, so that cancers of whatever type can be properly studied and hopefully eradicated. In 2004, Dr. Douglas Faller, M.D., Ph.D., a Trustee of the Foundation and Head of the Boston University Cancer Center was selected to this Chair. Dr. Faller resigned the Chair in 2016 (but remained a member of the Foundation's Board of Trustees). In 2019 Professor Julie Palmer, Sc.D and MPH, was named the second holder of the Chair, and subsequently elected to the Foundation's Board of Trustees.
In 2005 the Foundation welcomed Massachusetts General Hospital to the Karin Grunebaum family of supported institutions – sponsoring clinical 2-year post-graduate surgical research Fellowships at the world-renowned pancreatic cancer laboratory of former Trustee Dr. Andrew Warshaw – the hospital’s Surgeon-in-Chief.
In 2006 the Trustees decided that the fight against cancer could be more efficiently waged if the Foundation’s funding was channeled to directly help cancer researchers who had already decided that cancer research was to be their life’s work. Accordingly, the Foundation decided to annually sponsor projects by junior faculty members at Harvard Medical School and Boston University School of Medicine involved in clinical or translational cancer research.
The Foundation awards annual cash stipends to allow our sponsored Fellows to attend professional seminars and symposia.
In 2011 the Trustees also started funding training programs for potential new cancer researchers at both Harvard Medical School and Boston University School of Medicine. At Harvard Medical School from 2011 - 2016 we annually sponsored the Fall Welcome Event, the Student data Club and the Seminar Speaker Lunch Series for medical students participating in the Biological and Biomedical Sciences Cancer Biology Area of Concentration. At Boston University, we continue to sponsor the Karin Grunebaum Summer Research Fellowships which provides an opportunity for promising medical and college students to spend a summer working in the laboratory of a leading cancer scientist.
Starting in 2017, we started sponsoring the annual Karin Grunebaum Cancer Research poster competition at Harvard Medical School, with monetary prizes awarded to the winners.
Today, after awarding over 130 fellowships in more than 60 years, we still award annual Fellowships to cancer researchers from Harvard Medical School and Boston University School of Medicine who are working towards a cure for this dreaded disease. Our Board of Trustees is unique in that it is comprised both of Karin's children and grand-children as well as world-renowned medical educators and cancer researchers, such as the Dean for Graduate Education at Harvard Medical School, the Dean and Provost of Boston University School of Medicine as well as former Fellows and other medical practioners who have distinguished themselves in the field of cancer research. And, as is our tradition since Fritz Grunebaum established the Foundation in 1958, the Trustees personally meet with each and every one of these outstanding Fellows to discuss their work and their hopes for the future of cancer eradication.