Donors Make a Difference
Farb’s Legacy Opens Doors in Personalized Cancer Therapy
Over the course of a 50-year career as one of Houston’s most acclaimed apartment developers, Harold Farb was landlord to more than a million people. As he made his mark on the city with more than 30,000 apartments and other real estate interests, he touched the lives of many through an old-fashioned work ethic, an unabashed love of life and a desire to help others less fortunate.
Farb died at age 83 in 2006. Yet his legacy lives on through a recent gift of $1 million to MD Anderson’s Institute for Personalized Cancer Therapy. Farb’s widow, longtime MD Anderson supporter Diane Lokey Farb, says her contribution honors his memory and his lifelong interest in the cutting edge research and compassionate patient care for which MD Anderson is known.
“Harold was very interested in the research going on at MD Anderson, and he personally observed, through friends and family treated there, the level of caring the institution offers patients, their families and caregivers,” says Diane Lokey Farb. “We had a tradition of supporting MD Anderson and a shared concern that patients receive the most effective treatments to help them progress as quickly as possible toward healing and recovery.”
The concept of personalized cancer therapy is one her husband would be proud to support, she says. Cancer is a gene based disease, and every person is unique on the molecular level. Rather than adhering to a “one size fits all” strategy, personalized cancer therapy aims to
target drugs to markers found in the genetic blueprint of the individual tumor.
That is the approach of the Institute for Personalized Cancer Therapy, where researchers focus on the genetic and molecular structures specific to each patient and to each patient’s cancer. They also study how a drug or treatment works to target those individual abnormalities. Testing genes and molecules in a patient’s cancer prior to initiating therapy enables physician scientists to determine the right cancer therapy for the genetic and molecular makeup of that individual.
The Institute for Personalized Cancer Therapy maximizes recent discoveries in genomics, molecular biology, nanotechnology, computational sciences and biomedical imaging. The goal of this unique enterprise is to accelerate novel, precisely targeted, highly effective treatments for all types of cancer. Currently, the nation’s first clinical trials using this approach are under way at MD Anderson for patients with lung cancer and breast cancer. The lung cancer program, for example, is a set of clinical trials called BATT LE (Biomarkerintegrated Approaches of Targeted Therapy for Lung Cancer Elimination).
Harold Farb’s trademark innovative spirit and determination to push the envelope are mirrored in the work of the Institute for Personalized Cancer Therapy. Today, through generous philanthropic gestures such as this, Diane Lokey Farb continues her late husband’s caring tradition of helping others.
Student Organization Rallies to Support a ‘Fine’ Cause
MD Anderson patient Roxie Fine committed her life to helping others. As a family and consumer sciences teacher at Orange Grove High School in the South Texas town of Orange Grove, she encouraged students to strive for greatness. She also served as adviser to the local Family, Career and Community Leaders of America, a national student organization that promotes personal growth and leadership development.
Fine, who died in 2008 at age 45, inspired many students who considered her a teacher,a role model and a best friend. Her influence is reflected in a recent $22,000 contribution on behalf of the Orange Grove FCLA to the Institute for Personalized Cancer Therapy at MD Anderson.
“Mrs. Fine was a wonderful person who loved everyone,” says former student Brittney Magness. “She was always willing to give advice or just listen if you needed to talk.”
Magness and fellow FCLA members Victoria Galindo and Meg Walzel sought a way to honor Fine when she was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer of unknown primary, or CUP, in May 2008. CUP is a metastatic cancer with an unidentified origin that, according to the National
Cancer Institute, is found in only a few thousand patients each year and is difficult to treat.
The trio led the chapter’s efforts to implement “A ‘Fine’ Cause for Unknown Cancer.” The project included raising CUP research funds through a number of initiatives including Walk for a Fine Cause, a fun run/walk held Dec. 11, 2008, nine days after Fine’s death.
The students also worked with state leaders to designate a CUP state license plate and ribbon. During the 81st Legislative Session, Texas Rep. Yvonne Gonzalez Toureilles of Alice introduced House Concurrent Resolution 137 to establish a zebra stripe ribbon to symbolize
the disease. She also introduced House Concurrent Resolution 138 to honor Fine’s life and House Bill 4064 to create a specialty Texas license plate. All were passed in May 2009.
“Mrs. Fine was such an open and loving person,” says FCLA member Walzel. “We were very lucky to have her in our lives and community. She was always there for everyone and taught us so much about life. I know she’ll live on in our hearts and minds.”
Randalls’ Campaign Delivers Ingredients for Breast Cancer Awareness
As proof that those dollars donated at the grocery store checkout line really do make a difference to breast cancer research, Randalls Food Store contributed $450,000 to MD Anderson from its employee and customer fundraising campaigns. The donation is being used to find better ways to treat those diagnosed with breast cancer by helping fund the Ductal Carcinoma in Situ Discovery Enterprise and the National I-SPY Trial program at the institution.
The DCIS Discovery Enterprise aims to determine what happens on a molecular level that leads DCIS, the fourth leading diagnosed cancer in U.S. women, to become invasive cancer. The I-SPY trial is a national study to find biomarkers that would help predict response to therapy among women with Stage II breast cancer.
Randalls holds its annual breast cancer awareness campaign in October, which is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
Recently, Randalls’ Tom Schwilke, president; Leslie Nelson, vice president; Connie Yates, director of public affairs; and Dawne Proffitt, manager of public affairs and government relations, visited MD Anderson to learn about the programs the company is supporting.
For Nelson and Yates, it was personal. Yates recently had lost her sister to breast cancer, and Nelson had just been diagnosed with the disease.
“I’d been getting mammograms every October from MD Anderson’s mobile mammography unit that Randalls hosts at our stores since my first mammogram 10 years ago,” says Nelson. “Being so consistent potentially saved my life.”
In October 2008, Nelson’s mammogram came back suspicious. She immediately went to MD Anderson for follow-up.
Although she was only 49 and had no family history of breast cancer, Nelson was diagnosed with invasive breast cancer. It was discovered at an early stage and had not spread to her lymph nodes. After her first surgery, Nelson asked for an Oncotype DX®, a diagnostic test that can help some breast cancer patients make decisions about their treatment plans. It can also help indicate the likelihood of recurrence. After Nelson’s results showed a higher than normal recurrence rate, she underwent chemotherapy and radiation.
“Through Randalls’ funding of these research programs, we’re helping women receive personalized cancer care based on their particular molecular make up, and I have benefited from that very concept,” she says. “I know that our support of this research will continue to expand early diagnosis and early detection programs too. Nothing in my family history predicted that I was at risk, so I know the importance of early detection.”
Randalls plans to continue supporting cancer research and patient care programs and is grateful to those who’ve helped make the campaigns successful. “I want to give our customers and employees a heartfelt thank you for their amazing generosity,” says Nelson. “Everyone
has been touched by cancer in one way or another, and it’s important that our customers and employees understand that they really are making a difference.”
Couple Orchestrates Planned Gift to Cover Patients’ Travel Costs
Evelyn and Jerry Levine have been making beautiful music together for six decades. They met in New York: He was a clarinet major at the Juilliard School; she was a dancer in the Radio City
Corps de Ballet. Looking back on 59 years of marriage and anticipating those to come, they’re pleased that their legacy of love will never miss a beat. Through thoughtful estate planning,
the Levines have willed their entire estate to MD Anderson.Evelyn and Jerry, both 82, are former patients at MD Anderson — Jerry for melanoma and prostate cancer, Evelyn for breast cancer. Since they’ve experienced firsthand the nonmedical expenses that can pile up — extended hotel stays, meals, transportation — their gift will defray patients’ travel and lodging expenses.
“Evelyn and I have been treated at MD Anderson three times between the two of us,” says Jerry. “We understand.”
He describes his MD Anderson experiences, although those were emotional times and treatments were sometimes difficult, as “a wonderful part of my life.”
“I was cured,” he says. “It gives you a new perspective. We’re very grateful to MD Anderson.”
After Juilliard, Jerry taught at Carnegie-Mellon University, played in the Pittsburgh Symphony and had “a lot of musical work,”from nightclubs to musicals. Evelyn danced for television and taught before a 45-year career with Saks Fifth Avenue.
Jerry recalls one gig, a Ginger Rogers production, that indirectly taught the couple the importance of detecting cancer early. Jerry had invited Evelyn to attend a rehearsal. That day three fellow musicians confided that a loved one was scheduled for a mastectomy.
Shocked and saddened, Jerry related the news to Evelyn as soon as he could.
“That’s how she proceeded to do a self-exam and found a lump,” he says. “If I hadn’t heard about these three women, perhaps she wouldn’t have found it so early. She’s the only one among those four cases who survived.”
Evelyn had a mastectomy in Pittsburgh. Jerry’s melanoma diagnosis years later at age 46 introduced the couple to MD Anderson, and when her breast cancer returned, Evelyn had her second mastectomy in Houston.
Today the couple lives in West Palm Beach most of the year, summering in the mountains of North Carolina. They’re proud that their values will reverberate in the hearts of patients at MD Anderson.
“We’ve left the estate, totally, to MD Anderson — they saved our lives,” says Jerry.
Promise - Fall 2009
- Children’s Cancer Hospital: Practicing the Art of the Possible
- A Message From Dr. Mendelsohn
- iPromise: Jeff B. Love
- Philanthropy in Action
- Among Friends: Ruth Keller
- Survivors Say: Hoda Kotb
- Research Highlights
- Project Zero Delay Speeds Drug to Patients in Record Time
- Study Uncovers Genetic Link for Bladder Cancer
- Delivering Chemotherapy Straight to Ovarian Cancer Cells
- Common Diabetes Drug Reduces Pancreatic Cancer Risk
- Protein Dubbed 'Swiss Army Knife'
of DNA Repair
- Donors Make a Difference
- Farb's Legacy Opens Door in Personalized Cancer Therapy
- Student Organization Rallies to Support a 'Fine' Cause
- Randalls' Campaign Delivers Ingredients for Breast Cancer Awareness
- Couple Orchestrates Planned Gift
to cover Patients' Travel Costs
- News Makers:
- MD Anderson Ranks First in Cancer Care
- Collaboration to Speed Clinical Trials, Personalized Cancer Care
- New Chair of Clinical Prevention Arrives
- Women Faculty Programs Leader Garners Recognition
- Three Embark on an Odyssey of Learning and Discovery
- "Making Cancer History" Book Signing