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June 19, 2000

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AEGON Awards Hopkins $2 Million Grant for Breast and Prostate Cancer Research

Insurance conglomerate AEGON USA Charitable Foundation and AEGON N.V. has committed $2 million to Johns Hopkins for prostate and breast cancer research. The Johns Hopkins Oncology Center will split the funds with the Free University Oncology Research Institute in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, for a collaborative research project with Hopkins. This is the largest gift AEGON has ever made.

The funds will establish the Aegon Postdoctoral Research Fellowship Program in the Molecular Therapeutics of Prostate and Breast Cancer. Hopkins researchers will use the funds to study genetic alterations linked to these cancers and to develop new therapies based on their findings.

"This grant underscores our commitment as an insurance group to support medical research and health care and our appreciation for the importance of the research being conducted by Johns Hopkins scientists and their colleagues," said Donald J. Shepard, M.B.A., member of the AEGON N.V. Executive Board and chairman, president and chief executive officer of AEGON USA.

Hopkins scientists will use the grant to focus on two genes, HER2/neu in breast cancer and HIF-1 in prostate cancer, and their role in inducing angiogenesis, or the development of a blood supply to the tumor. They believe angiogenesis plays a vital role in the progression of cancer from a single malignant cell to an invading tumor. Hopkins researchers believe these genes could be promising targets for drugs that would interfere with their activity and cut off the blood supply to tumors.

"These studies have exciting ramifications for new molecular therapeutics in two of the most common and, all too often, treatment-resistant cancers. With this generous support from AEGON, I'm confident that we'll continue to make progress and find critical answers that will one day eradicate breast and prostate cancer," said Martin D. Abeloff, M.D., director of the Johns Hopkins Oncology Center.

AEGON N.V., which is based in the Netherlands, is one of the largest insurance groups worldwide. Its U.S. company, AEGON USA, Inc., is headquartered in Baltimore. In 1994, the company made a $1 million contribution to Johns Hopkins to support the construction of its new comprehensive cancer center and to establish a collaborative research project with the Free University Oncology Research Institute.

The Johns Hopkins Oncology Center is one of only 36 cancer centers in the United States and the only one in Maryland designated by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) as a Comprehensive Cancer Center. This designation means that the Oncology Center has active programs in clinical research, laboratory research, education and community outreach, and prevention, making it the only comprehensive cancer center in Maryland.

Related web sites:
Johns Hopkins Oncology Center: www.hopkinskimmelcancercenter.org

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