HONOLULU, HAWAI’I – A well known Hawai’i philanthropist has donated $720,000 to fund a research project intended to stop breast cancer from metastasizing. Dr. Lawrence Tseu’s donation is the largest gift given for research to the Hawai’i Pacific corporation of the American Cancer Society to fund a Hawai’i researcher.
“This very generous gift will fund an important research project that could improve how breast cancer is treated and dramatically increase the survival rate,” said Jackie Young, chief staff officer for mission of the American Cancer Society Hawai’i Pacific.
The donation is named the “Dr. Lawrence and Mrs. BoHing Chan Tseu American Cancer Society Grant for Breast Cancer Research.” Dr. Tseu’s wife survived breast cancer decades ago after undergoing a mastectomy. She later died from lung cancer in 2008 after a three-year battle.
“Every six months she would have an operation, and they would take out a part of her lung,” Dr. Tseu said. “It’s devastating to see your loved one deteriorate.”
In the 1960s, the doctor’s sister, Miriam, died when cancer in her uterus metastasized to her surrounding organs.
“I lost the two women I loved the most to cancer,” he said.
What is often deadly about cancer is when it metastasizes, or spreads, to other parts of the body. Wael ElShamy, PhD, a cancer researcher at the University of Hawai’i Cancer Research Center of Hawai’i, has discovered that a particular molecule plays a pivotal role in breast cancer metastasis. This molecule, in a normal state, is involved in normal cell division but when it is in an extremely active state, as in breast cancer cells, it promotes aneuploidy, an abnormal number of chromosomes. Aneuploid breast cancer cells are frequently observed in early lesions. Therefore, targeting the molecule that is responsible for aneuploidy with drugs will be beneficial in eradicating breast and perhaps other types of cancer metastases.
When Young first approached Dr. Tseu about making a donation to help fund this project, he agreed to give $500,000. Shortly after agreeing, he called Young back and said he had changed his mind. He told her after thinking about it, he wanted to donate the entire amount needed for the project. “There are so many heroes in the battle against cancer,” Young said. “Dr. ElShamy with his research is certainly one. But none of this would be possible without Dr. Tseu’s generosity. This means we can begin the work right away and bring a quicker end to this devastating disease. I can’t thank Dr. Tseu enough.”