Georgetown University Medical Center recently received a $6.75 million gift for the creation of a new cancer center. The donation was made by Jeanne Ruesch in honor of her husband Otto Ruesch, who passed away from pancreatic cancer five years ago. The Otto J. Ruesch Center for the Cure of Gastrointestinal Cancers will be a part of Georgetown’s Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center.
Otto Ruesch was a Swiss immigrant to the United States as well as a prominent and successful D.C. entrepreneur. He and his wife, who currently sits on the Georgetown Board of Directors, developed a strong connection with the university when their son attended Georgetown as an undergraduate and law student. When Ruesch was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, he received treatment from Dr. John Marshall, chief of the hematology and oncology division at Georgetown University Hospital, and the current director of the Ruesch Center.
During his treatment at the Lombardi Center both Otto Ruesch and his wife Jeanne were struck by how little could be done to combat gastrointestinal cancers. “The current state of treatment for the GI cancers was shocking to my husband,” Ruesch said.
Gastrointestinal cancers have some of the lowest recovery rates of all cancers. Dr. Marshall believes that treatment for GI cancers lags behind that of other cancers because of the complicated nature of the disease and because of a lack of research.
“There has been two to three times the amount of research on breast cancer compared to other cancers, like GI cancers,” Marshall said.
The lack of research was one of the reasons Jeanne Ruesch made her donation to the Georgetown University Medical Center.
“Ultimately our focus is to begin the process to find a cure,” Jeanne said. “We have to redefine what we think about cancer and what is possible.”