Sept. 25, 2013

Lymphedema research gets $5 million boost from Dianne and Irving Kipnes Foundation

Donation supports collaborative program with university partners
From left: Jon Meddings, dean, Faculty of Medicine; donors Irving and Dianne Kipnes; University of Calgary President Elizabeth Cannon; and Pierre-Yves von der Weid, associate professor in the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology and member of the Snyder Institute for Chronic Diseases.

Jon Meddings, donors Irving and Dianne Kipnes, Elizabeth Cannon, and Pierre-Yves von der Weid.

Riley Brandt

Alberta researchers will be able to explore the lymphatic system thanks to a $5 million donation from Dianne and Irving Kipnes.  The gift will be used toward the development of a Lymphatic Imaging Suite, education development, and support for recruitment of new researchers.

“The University of Calgary, Faculty of Medicine and the Calvin, Phoebe and Joan Snyder Institute for Chronic Diseases are proud to partner with Dianne and Irving Kipnes in support of their gift towards lymphedema research and education,” says University of Calgary President Elizabeth Cannon.  “Their generous $5 million support will enable the University of Calgary to establish a collaborative program exploring research into this condition.”

Lymphedema is a chronic infection often associated with excessive swelling because the lymphatic system fails to drain fluid, cells and proteins away from tissues within the body. It is often a complication arising from the treatment of various cancers and melanoma.

Personal experience linked to generous gift

Dianne and Irving Kipnes felt compelled to make a gift stemming from their own personal experience. “Anyone who has struggled with surviving cancer knows that the road to recovery can be long and challenging, and to unexpectedly cope with lymphedema can be devastating. But as many cancer survivors discover, this can happen,” says Dianne, who was diagnosed with lymphedema after her own cancer treatment.

“We believe this gift will have enormous implications in understanding the workings of the lymphatic system through research and ultimately helping many people coping with chronic diseases live healthier lives. The Dianne and Irving Kipnes Foundation is fortunate to be able to invest in this initiative in Calgary and Edmonton, which is unique to Canada.”

About lymphedemia

Lymphedema is a common, yet disabling, condition affecting about four to five million people in North America. If left untreated, there is a risk of loss of limb function as well as the onset of chronic infections. With few dedicated clinics and expertise in this area, there is a need for further research, education and increased awareness in order to improve care delivery for lymphedema patients.

“Everyone has experienced swelling at one point or another. Usually it is quickly resolved once the cause is treated.  There are cases however where swelling doesn’t go away and this affliction becomes chronic. In these situations such as lymphedema, the lymphatic system doesn’t play its role and despite its prevalent functions, the lymphatic system has been studied very little,” says Pierre-Yves von der Weid, an associate professor in the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology and member of the Snyder Institute for Chronic Diseases at the University of Calgary.

“The first step to improving treatments and outcomes for patients suffering from lymphedema is to better understand the complex biology of the lymphatic system. In that regard, research is pivotal.  As we expand our knowledge we can develop new diagnostic and therapeutic approaches,” he says.