About nine years ago, after being treated in New York for a few years for prostate cancer, William B. Finneran asked two friends to suggest a doctor who could render a second opinion.
His prostate-specific antigen numbers were high, and doctors in New York suggested surgery to remove his prostate, he said.
The friends with whom he spoke — fellow Palm Beacher David Koch and financier Michael Milken, founder of the Prostate Cancer Foundation — had been treated for the same condition by oncologist Dr. Christopher J. Logothetis of MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. They suggested he give Logothetis a call, Finneran said.
Logothetis used hormone therapy to put Finneran’s prostate cancer in remission. He’s made countless trips to Houston for treatment at MD Anderson, part of the University of Texas.
“The treatments have gone very well. I’m still here,” he said with a laugh at his North End home.
Finneran decided this year to reward MD Anderson for the care he continues to receive there.
He established the Finneran Family Prize, which grants $ 50,000 each year to an MD Anderson scientist for translational cancer research. Such work takes laboratory discoveries and converts them into clinical treatments for patients.
Finneran said he made the sizable investment because he appreciates MD Anderson’s core values, which, he said, are compassion and integrity. For 2014, US. News & World Report ranked MD Anderson No. 2 in the country for cancer care.
“Right away you recognize it isn’t one doctor making decisions, it’s a team there,” Finneran said. “Not only have they made a difference in my life, I think they are going to do it for millions of people. I started out as a patient, now I’m a supporter of their effort to eradicate cancer.”
The first recipient of the Finneran Family Prize is Logothetis.
The federal grants process seeks maximum gain with minimum risk and that focus leads to incremental change, Logothetis said from Houston. The Finneran Prize permits scientists to widen the scope of their investigation, he said. Finneran directed that the scientists use the funds in any way they feel is appropriate.
“It allows you to be a risk taker,” Logothetis said.
The prostate cancer expert said he also admires Finneran for investing time and money — at MD Anderson, Children’s Hospital Philadelphia and other institutions — to find a cure for Friedreich’s ataxia, a debilitating, inherited neuromuscular disorder. Finneran’s granddaughter, Annie Hamilton, 11, of Rye, N.Y., has the condition.
“He’s dedicated a big part of his life to find a solution to her illness,” Logothetis said. “What that means is he’s framed my job very clearly — to help him live long enough for him to drive therapies for his granddaughter’s illness.”
That investment is a sign of Finneran’s humanity, he said.
Finneran said finding a cure for Friedreich’s ataxia is of paramount importance to him.
“It’s my driving force in life. It’s all I care about,” Finneran said. “We are going to find a cure.”
That kind of determination and an “exuberant enthusiasm for life” are helping Finneran exceed lifespan expectations, according to Logothetis.
“He’s a role model for patients because he’s a person who’s lived with what was considered untreatable prostate cancer for over a decade now. He hasn’t surrendered to the cancer, and he’s leading a productive life,” Logothetis said.
Finneran said he is happy to help propel research at MD Anderson through the Finneran Family Prize.
“It’s like a family there. We’ve all been in a lot of hospitals. They are caring, from the president and chairman of the board, right down to the guy sweeping the floor. It’s a scary disease and all that,” Finneran said of prostate cancer. “You don’t see anyone with gloom on their face there.”
For more information on the Cancer Center, visit mdanderson.org.
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