Restaurant developer Chris Sullivan, who co-founded the Outback Steakhouse chain that got its start in Tampa, has donated $5 million to Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa for research into melanoma therapy.
Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer, responsible for about 75 percent of all skin cancer-related deaths, although it accounts for less than 5 percent of all skin cancer cases.
It is the most common form of cancer for young adults 25 to 29 years old and the second most common form of cancer for those aged 15 to 29.
“I’ve been blessed to be in a position where I can give back to my community,” Sullivan said in a Moffitt release on Monday.
“Supporting Moffitt Cancer Center and the melanoma research done at the facility is important,” said Sullivan, a partner in MVP LRS, LLC, the company behind the Lee Roy Selmon’s restaurant chain.
“The work they are doing with melanoma treatment, genetics and immune therapy is truly ground breaking. It is exciting to be able to help move discoveries along to quickly benefit patients in Florida and around the world.”
A spokeswoman for MVP LRS LLC, said Sullivan could not be reached and deferred all comments to Moffitt.
“Chris Sullivan is a longtime friend and supporter of Moffitt Cancer Center,” Moffitt Media Relations Coordinator Kimberly Polacek said. “While we have announced his donation for melanoma research, we cannot comment on any previous gifts without his consent.
“We are extremely grateful for Mr. Sullivan’s generous donation,” Polacek said. “All gifts, small or large, are integral to our institution because the funds support life-saving cancer research that has a lasting impact far beyond our community.”
The Moffitt Cancer Center Foundation has accepted more than $200 million in donations since it was established in 1994.
Sullivan’s contribution will support Moffitt’s Donald A. Adam Comprehensive Melanoma Research Center of Excellence, established in 2008 to unite clinical and basic scientists to quickly translate laboratory discoveries into new treatments for patients.
Its researchers are advancing studies into reading and deciphering genetic information found in DNA, a technique known as genomic sequencing, and developing personalized treatments for melanoma to improve patient survival.
One accomplishment has been the first complete sequencing of the entire melanoma genome, and successfully growing tumor infiltrating lymphocytes, leading to clinical trials with positive results for melanoma patients.
Moffitt celebrated the gift with a private reception at the Center on Nov 19 attended by Moffitt founder H. Lee Moffitt and Moffitt President and Chief Executive Officer Alan F. List.
Moffitt will name the atrium of its McKinley campus outpatient facility, which is under construction, The Chris Sullivan Family Atrium.
“This generous contribution, from our longtime friend Chris Sullivan, will ensure that Moffitt Cancer Center’s melanoma program continues to be a world leader in the fight against cancer with revolutionary research that leads to hope for our patients,” said List. “Chris’ support will change the treatment and outcomes for patients facing melanoma.”