CREATING CANCER MILESTONES – Donor of the Day
By Melanie Grayce West
The Davis family has a simple motto when it comes to their foundation’s work: “Keep on Tuckin’.”
That’s Tuckin’, as in Tucker Lowe Davis, who died in 2010 from a rare form of liver cancer called fibrolamellar hepatocellular carcinoma. The family launched the Greenwich, Conn.-based Fibrolamellar Cancer Foundation to find life-extending options and treatments, and provide support to patients and money for research. To date, the foundation has raised a little over $3 million, about half of which is in reserve for future projects.
“Tucker actually said to us once, ‘Maybe I got this, Mom, because you and Dad can figure it out,'” recalls Marna Davis, chairwoman of the foundation and Tucker’s mother. She says her son believed that there was a cure for his cancer and that in his diagnosis there was a way to turn a bad situation into good. “I think the last 18 months of Tucker’s life were his finest years,” she says.
Mrs. Davis and her husband, Charles Davis, the chief executive of Greenwich-based private-equity firm Stone Point Capital, support the foundation through private gifts. They cover the administrative costs of the foundation and have given some $500,000 to various research efforts. Mr. Davis’s firm also donates money raised from its annual golf outing to the Fibrolamellar Cancer Foundation.
Among the foundation’s accomplishments is the launch of a research consortium comprised of hospitals and doctors from around the country who are focused on fibrolamellar. The foundation says that there are about 200 cases diagnosed annually, world-wide.
The foundation also helped to launch, with a $500,000 grant, the first clinical trial specifically for fibrolamellar. The trial is open at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and, just recently, started at Johns Hopkins Medical Center. The trial is a “big boon” to patients and researchers because pharmaceutical companies don’t tend to fund studies in rare cancers, says Mrs. Davis.
“When we really look back and have to sort of tally up what we’ve done, we’ve come a long way in the last three or four years,” says Mrs. Davis.
Still, she says, the trial and current treatments for fibrolamellar are talked about in terms of controlling the cancer, but not necessarily a “cure.”
“I have learned, kind of the hard way and it’s not what I originally wanted to hear when Tucker was sick, but I’ve learned that in a lot of cancer research they define success in life-extension. They can extend life by six months, or two years,” says Mrs. Davis. “For me, as the mother of a child with a fatal cancer, that doesn’t sound like a lot. But in the cancer research world, that’s a milestone.”
A version of this article appeared April 3, 2013, on page A23 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Creating Cancer Milestones.