About Us

Our Mission:
Combining expertise in molecular medicine, translational research, and a patient-centered philosophy, the Ruesch Center will realize the dream of individualized curative therapies through research, care, and advocacy.


Leading a New Battle Against GI Cancer:
Gastrointestinal (GI) cancers are the most common and the most fatal of all cancers, yet continue to be dramatically under-funded. This year, 290,000 Americans will be diagnosed with a GI cancer and more than 50% will die within five years. With this in mind, in 2009, Jeanne Ruesch founded The Ruesch Center for the Cure of Gastrointestinal Cancers at the Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center with a $6.75 million seed grant in honor of her late husband Otto. Today, the Ruesch Center is a global pioneer, unmatched by any other GI cancer program. Relentlessly fighting a smarter war against GI cancer by partnering with patients based on their unique needs, the Ruesch Center is carrying out cutting-edge, innovative research, and providing the highest standard of care and individualized cures.


What Makes the Ruesch Center Unique:

No two tumors are exactly alike, so treating all GI cancer patients with standard chemotherapy regimens is ineffective for the vast majority of people and thus financially unsustainable.  At the Ruesch Center, we believe the future of GI cancer treatment hinges on a highly personalized approach to finding the right drugs for the right patients.  As an international center of excellence, part of one of only 40 comprehensive cancer centers in the country and one of only a few that focuses exclusively on GI cancers, we are working tirelessly by: 

  • Advancing Science and Research: In the last four years, the Ruesch Center has supported more than 50 clinical trials, with 119 (18%) of our current patients enrolled on a trial. More than 2,000 tissue and blood samples, in combination with clinical data, of GI patients have been stored and are available for use in future cancer research.
  • Changing Lives and Outcomes:Our nurse navigators, who offer critical medical guidance, support, and direction for patients and their families through the cancer treatment process, have touched the lives of more than 2,800 patients.
  • Cultivating Innovators of the Future:  Our student summer program has grown from two students in the early years to 14 in the coming summer and engages participants in research and patient care.
  • Collaborating and Sharing Insights: The center has established scientific collaborations with over 12 local, national and international partners, including the creation of a Global Alliance, resulting in research papers that have influenced treatment across the globe.


Establishment of the Ruesch Center:

Otto and Jeanne Ruesch

The Otto J. Ruesch Center for the Cure of Gastrointestinal (GI) Cancers will re-focus national efforts on curing this deadly set of diseases. Combining expertise in molecular medicine, translational research, and a patient-centered philosophy, the Ruesch Center will realize the dream of individualized curative therapies through research, care, and advocacy.

The Center was founded in September, 2009 through a gift from Jeanne W. Ruesch in memory of her husband, Otto. He was a prominent Washington-area businessman and philanthropist who died of pancreatic cancer in October 2004 at the age of 64, after being treated at Lombardi. A Swiss-born immigrant, Otto Ruesch founded in 1980 Ruesch International Monetary Services Inc., which specialized in corporate foreign payments and risk management products. As passionate as he was about business, he was even more so about his volunteer roles with various civic, arts and educational organizations and was known for his hands-on approach to causes that were important to him.

Throughout Otto's year-long battle with his disease, the Rueschs say they were struck by the lack of public understanding of gastrointestinal cancers, as well as the difficulty of accessing information and treatment. They saw a glaring need to shine a spotlight on the devastation caused by gastrointestinal disease through advocacy and increased research funding for more targeted drugs. "Our family was astounded that the prognosis for pancreatic cancer - one of the most devastating GI cancers - was so grim," Jeanne Ruesch says. "There has been so little progress in identifying new treatment methodologies in recent years. Through the course of Otto's illness, we saw so many families whose suffering touched our hearts and made us feel that we had to take some responsibility for trying to make a difference in treating this terrible disease."

Gastrointestinal cancers remain among the most fatal cancers. Advances in treatment have lagged well behind other disease priorities such as breast cancer because of a smaller pool of research funding and fewer survivors to carry the torch of advocacy, according to Ruesch Center Director John Marshall, MD, chief of the Division of Hematology-Oncology for Georgetown University Hospital and associate director for clinical research at the Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center. In addition to being a global leader in the research and development of drugs to treat colon cancer, Marshall treated Otto Ruesch for pancreatic cancer.

"We are fortunate to have identified Georgetown as one of 40 NCI-designated comprehensive cancer treatment centers in the Unites States, and John Marshall as one of the leading clinical research physicians for the treatment of GI cancers," Jeanne Ruesch says. "Like Otto, Dr. Marshall believes that the status quo in cancer treatment is simply unacceptable. We have to find a cure. Our family wants to be a part of the process."