One cancer specialist, after being told the medical story of Coral’s relatives, described it as “a horrific family history”. And it’s difficult to disagree after hearing the tragic facts.
Coral, now 88, lost her 45-year-old daughter to ovarian cancer. She lost one brother to pancreatic cancer and another to a brain tumour. Her mother died from bowel cancer and her father from renal cancer. Various types of cancer have also claimed the lives of her uncle, grandson and nephew.
And yet, amidst all of this loss, Coral has found a positive. She has discovered a way to offer others hope that they will not have to suffer the pain she has felt throughout her life. It comes in the form of a bequest of $10,000 to The Kids’ Cancer Project.
“After my nephew passed away from a brain cancer, I heard so much about the amazing work done by The Kids’ Cancer Project,” Coral says.
“I’m donating for a few reasons. One is that adults seem to be able to handle cancer. They understand it, at least. They can process what is happening to them. But when you see children suffering, it really brings home to you how terrible it is.”
“Secondly, I just think that if we can cure more children, and if we can prevent children from getting cancer in the first place, then the positive medical results will flow on to the adults. That’s my thinking, at least.”
In fact, Coral’s thinking is on point. Dr Nick Gottardo, co-head of the Telethon Kids Institute’s Brain Tumour Research Team and recipient of funding from The Kids’ Cancer Project, says the best research cases for new, molecularly targeted cancer treatments that target the biology of individual tumours are paediatric cancers.
“The paediatric cancers are better for this work because they’re more pure,” Dr Gottardo says. “Adult cancers develop over a long period of time, from mutations from external environmental agents such as cigarette smoke, pollution, diet, etc.”
“But paediatric cancers come from abnormal development of a developmental pathway. It’s where development has gone awry from one or two mutations. And so, often a paediatric cancer will be the prototype for why a specific inhibitor works really well.”
Coral is very happy with the decision she has made to help fund research of new kids’ cancer treatments, even after her own life has ended.
“I can’t possibly help every charity that asks for a donation, but I can make a difference, here,” she says. “I hope the little bit I’m leaving does some good for the children. Without the research, nothing will change. But if people continue to give, the scientists will find solutions.”