The pain of losing her first grandchild to pancreatic cancer was something Jeanne F. Shelby carried for the rest of her life.
“Quite a few of our family members have survived cancer,” says Sharon Shelby, Jeanne’s daughter. “When my son, Richard, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer 20 years ago, the survival rate was about 2%. We were hopeful that he’d be in that percentage, but his diagnosis came too late.”
Now, the five-year survival rate is only about 7%, and while it’s moving in the right direction, says Shelby, the pace is “just too slow.”
To honor her grandson and other family members who’ve suffered from cancer, Jeanne left instructions in her will for a $3.4 million donation: $1.7 million to create the Richard K. Lavine Pancreatic Fund, to support pancreatic cancer research, and $1.7 million to create the Jeanne F. Shelby Scholarship Fund, which provided initial funding for the R. Lee Clark Fellows Award Program (see story at right).
“You have to use every avenue possible when it comes to finding a cure,” says Sharon.
Jason B. Fleming, M.D., professor in Surgical Oncology, leads the innovative pancreatic cancer research supported by the Lavine fund.
“Pancreatic cancer is predicted to become the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States by 2020,” says Fleming. “The fund provides resources necessary to expand research to develop and test first-in-kind methods to monitor and treat pancreatic cancer. We’re grateful to the Shelby family for giving our team the opportunity to perform research that could save lives in the future.”
In addition to funding the inaugural R. Lee Clark Fellows Award Program, the Shelby Scholarship Fund also supports the Investigational Cancer Therapeutics Fellowship Program, which focuses on developing novel drugs and drug combinations.
“The Shelby Scholarship Fund has been crucial in establishing the program’s capacity to train talented physicians over the next two years,” says David S. Hong, M.D., deputy chair of Investigational Cancer Therapeutics. “It enables them to experience early drug development training in clinical trials that will improve patient outcomes through personalized cancer therapy.”
Sharon says her mother would be excited to know her donation has touched the lives of so many already.
“Mother knew that supporting research and education is how we’re going to beat cancer, and as a parent who lost a child to cancer, it means a lot to me personally.”