May 31, 2022
McDougall family establishes Andrew M. McDougall Brain Metastasis Clinic and Research Program with $5 million gift
BY Allison Schaffer
Jeffrey McDougall, of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, has committed $5 million on behalf of the entire McDougall family to establish the Andrew M. McDougall Brain Metastasis Clinic and Research Program at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. This generous commitment will be matched through institutional philanthropic efforts, bringing the program funding to its goal of $10 million.
The clinic is named for McDougall’s beloved son, Andrew, who was diagnosed with stage IV melanoma in 2018 and subsequently developed brain metastases. He ultimately succumbed to the disease in March 2021. The Andrew M. McDougall Brain Metastasis Clinic and Research Program seeks to bring together clinical and scientific disciplines to discover, evaluate and deploy novel treatment options for patients with brain metastases.
“Andrew was a wonderful husband, dad and son. When he passed, I debated whether it was time to move forward and try to start the healing process,” said Jeffrey McDougall, president and owner of JMA Energy Company. “But I was so engaged and had come so far, I did not want to lay down my sword. For Andrew’s sake and for the sake of future brain metastases patients and their families, I didn’t want cancer to win. And I didn’t want other people to go through what we went through with Andrew.”
Approximately 300,000 patients with cancer per year will experience metastases to the central nervous system, including the brain. This represents a significant cause of morbidity and death for patients with advanced solid tumors such as breast cancer or melanoma. Therapeutic approaches previously have been limited to local treatments such as surgery and radiation. Up to 30% of patients with metastatic solid tumors are expected to develop brain metastases, leading those patients to be excluded from almost all clinical trials for novel systemic therapies. This is a concern the McDougalls hope to address through a comprehensive approach to research that crosses all tumor types.
“Andrew had a great sense of humor. He always had a big smile, a raised eyebrow and a witty remark — from behind his awesome beard — that kept everyone around him laughing,” said Loren McDougall, wife of Andrew M. McDougall. “We are determined to continue his legacy and hopefully spare another family the pain of a loss like Andrew’s.”
The Brain Metastasis Clinic was established in 2019 as part of MD Anderson’s efforts to drive research discovery and innovation. The clinic is led by Hussein Tawbi, M.D., Ph.D., deputy chair of Melanoma Medical Oncology and professor of Melanoma Medical Oncology and Investigational Cancer Therapeutics; Frederick Lang, M.D., chair of Neurosurgery and director of the Brain Tumor Center; and Jing Li, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of Radiation Oncology and section head of CNS Radiation Oncology.
The clinic offers each patient the opportunity to be evaluated by multiple specialists — neurosurgeons, radiation oncologists, medical oncologists and neuro-radiologists — during a single visit. Together, this team of MD Anderson clinicians assesses the multiple and complex factors affecting the patient and collaboratively develops a treatment plan for the patient’s brain metastases.
The multi-disciplinary evaluation maximizes the patient’s time, eliminates trips to multiple clinics and provides highly coordinated expert care. The clinic also serves as a resource to identify and evaluate patients for ongoing clinical trials, paving the way to develop brain metastases clinical trials. However, knowledge of the biology that drives brain metastases and a complete understanding of the tumor immune microenvironment in the brain remain very limited. More effective therapies and multidisciplinary approaches are needed.
“Accelerating drug discovery for patients with brain metastases and improving their outcomes requires bringing together highly talented clinical, translational and basic science investigators. Our vision is to dramatically expand the clinic’s efforts to become the nation’s most influential program in brain metastasis care,” Tawbi said. “Through the incredible generosity of the McDougall family and the thoughtful partnership and foresight of Jeffrey McDougall, we are poised to galvanize brain metastasis research and care at MD Anderson and to extend our impact to all patients with brain metastases nationally and globally. We are forever grateful for the McDougall family’s commitment to MD Anderson.”
Legacy inspiring a paradigm change
Through the generosity of the McDougall family, the Andrew M. McDougall Brain Metastasis Clinic and Research Program aims to overcome multiple barriers that exist in finding novel therapies for patients with brain metastases by:
- Investing in basic science and investigators to identify next-generation targets and treatments
- Developing preclinical strategies to prioritize novel compounds and combinations for clinical testing
The clinic and research program is part of a larger-scale initiative, the Strategic Research Initiative Development (STRIDE), which is designed to identify, develop and support innovative approaches to address operational gaps, unmet needs or opportunities that will subsequently impact and empower research and, ultimately, patient care. Co-led by Andrew Futreal, Ph.D., vice president for Strategic Translational Research Programs and chair of Genomic Medicine, and Elizabeth Burton, executive director of STRIDE, the program partners with clinic and program leadership to facilitate long-term planning and engagement.
“Andrew’s courageous three-year journey with melanoma and brain metastases deeply influenced our collective aims for the vision of the clinic, particularly emphasizing the need to equip our multidisciplinary team with more effective approaches to cure these patients,” said Michael Davies, M.D., Ph.D., chair of Melanoma Medical Oncology and Andrew McDougall’s physician. “Our team remains inspired by Andrew’s strength and never-failing perseverance throughout the most difficult moments of this terrible disease. We will continue to push for progress for patients like Andrew as we work toward Making Cancer History® for patients with brain metastases.”