The research that will cure cancer is a collaborative effort involving scientists, clinicians, and caring people willing to make a financial commitment in support of such research. Allison Clago is one of those people.
Clago recently made the depth of her partnership clear with a multimillion dollar provision in her estate plan to support the John Wayne Cancer Institute at Providence Saint John’s Health Center and its innovative research, including the developing science of immunotherapy.
“I’ll never forget the words: ‘You have breast cancer and I want to prolong your life.’ It was a game changer,” Clago said. And while treatment–chemotherapy and radiation–quelled her cancer, Clago sees the possibility of a future with far more tolerable and consistently effective treatment options that result from the bequest she’s making.
Clago, who is Managing Director–Investments at Wedbush Securities, believes “together we can all make a difference. I can’t do what the doctors do, but I can offer my help by funding their research and clinical trials.”
Immunotherapy—using the body’s own defense system to target cancerous cells—is showing enormous potential and is a major focus at the John Wayne Cancer Institute. In 2016, Clago donated $100,000 to the Institute, earmarked for research by Tim Wilson, M.D., Chief of Urology and Director of the Urologic Oncology Research Program to help develop prostate cancer immunotherapies.
Private support is often the seed money that lets a researcher quickly pursue an innovative idea and show that the approach has enough promise to merit further substantial funding from both public and private sources.
Clago understood the significance of the immunotherapy strategy and the fact that it wasn’t limited to just one type of cancer. “Here I am—I have breast cancer, and I’m intrigued by the work Dr. Wilson is doing in prostate cancer,” she said. “What he’s doing may transfer into other cancers.”
This is already happening. Recently, the Institute enrolled the first patient nationwide in a groundbreaking clinical trial using two combinations of three immunotherapy drugs to combat tumors related to several types of cancer. The trial is led by Steven O’Day, M.D., director of clinical research and director Immuno/Oncology at the Institute and it was made possible in part through funding provided by Clago.
“Philanthropic donations are vital to sparking novel research and treatments,” said Dr. O’Day. “Our physicians and scientists have a culture of close collaboration so we can seamlessly research treatments that potentially can translate across many cancer types and ultimately help patients.”
Clago learned the importance of philanthropy from her father, who contributed anonymously to community causes. In fact, his daughter initially did not want her gift announced, but she considered her mother’s strategy – “Put your name on it,” she said, “and people will follow your example.”
“Material things are replaceable,” said Clago. “But you can’t always fix a person’s health. Too often, we stand by helplessly in despair as our loved ones suffer. I want to help change that.”