With the number of diagnoses around the world expected to surpass 20 million by 2030, cancer is a truly global health challenge.
But for many of those leading the fight against the disease — as activists, fundraisers, doctors and researchers — the cause is extremely personal.
Just ask Ed Strohm.
The longtime New York City court officer serves as vice president of the Three Strohm Sisters Family Foundation, a non-profit foundation whose mission of raising money for cancer research began when his three aunts — Lucille Montrony, Jane Stanczuk and Kathy Sarna — were diagnosed with breast cancer.
“My family’s the type of family where, if we don’t like something, we do something about it,” Strohm said. “I feel that everybody is somebody and everybody has the ability to do something to make the world a better place.”
As Strohm seeks out recipients for the funds his family raises through golf outings, comedy nights, benefit dinners and other events, he knows exactly what he’s looking for: “High-quality proven institutions that fund less debilitating forms of treatment.”
“A lot of the treatments we have now are almost as bad as the actual disease,” Strohm said. “We’re looking for something that has less debilitating side effects.”
With the Three Strohm Sisters Family Foundation based in Suffolk County, a connection with Stony Brook Medicine was natural. “It’s got a proven track record of a world-class institution that does quality research with some of the world’s top doctors,” Strohm said.
It just so happens that one of those doctors, doing the exact kind of research Strohm and his foundation aims to support, has very similar motivations.
Laura Hogan, MD, associate professor of pediatrics, pediatric hematology/oncology, focuses her research on acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), the most common form of cancer found in children. While decades of research have produced a dramatic improvement in the cure rate for ALL, the outcomes for patients who suffer a relapse are generally very poor.
“We have seen improvements in response to initial therapy,” Dr. Hogan said, “so yes, we have seen success, but not a complete slam dunk because there are still kids that relapse, and those that relapse still have poor outcomes with minimal improvement over the last couple of decades.”
It’s a problem that resonates deeply with Dr. Hogan, and with good reason: she herself is an ALL survivor.
“Personally, it’s something that’s very interesting to me,” Dr. Hogan said, “but professionally, I see it as one of the great challenges in pediatric cancer because it’s really an unmet need. No studies to date have really led to remarkable increases in survival for kids with the relapsed disease.”
With support from the Three Strohm Sisters Family Foundation, Dr. Hogan has focused her research on gaining a better understanding of relapsed ALL, so that doctors can define better-targeted therapies, with the eventual goal of improved outcomes.
It’s exactly what the Foundation aims to support, and Strohm and his family are proud to be able to support it locally.
“Cancer respects no national border,” Strohm said. “I believe that if the finest minds and the finest institutions and good people in the world come together to fund, think, research and come up with a cure; it will happen. As much as I believe that, I believe that here in Suffolk County, we should have the absolute best of everything. Stony Brook is a great institution, and I’m willing to do whatever I can to help the 8 million people of Long Island have the best quality research and care here on Long Island.”
“The Three Strohm Sisters Family Foundation’s support of cancer research at Stony Brook Medicine demonstrates the power that local, personal connections can have in the face of global challenges,” said Dexter A. Bailey Jr., senior vice president for University Advancement. “We are grateful for the Foundation’s support, and excited to see the research they’ve funded make an impact for patients at Stony Brook and around the world.”
The Three Strohm Sisters Family Foundation’s support of cancer research at Stony Brook Medicine is part of the $600 million Campaign for Stony Brook, the largest in SUNY history. To date, more than 47,546 people have contributed a total of more than $590.3 million. For more information, visit stonybrook.edu/campaign.
— Elliot Olshansky