Firsts’ gift is changing the future of early detection.

Firsts’ gift is changing the future of early detection.

Institute Trustees and longtime supporters Debbie and Bob First are focused on a singular goal: early detection of cancer to provide more opportunities for cures. Their latest gift of $1 million continues to propel Dana-Farber toward that objective and supports The Dana-Farber Campaign through investments in revolutionary science and essential opportunities.

Debbie and Bob’s cancer journey, and their passionate commitment to early detection, began in 1977 when Debbie was diagnosed with ovarian cancer as a young professional and working parent. At the time conventional wisdom was that the disease would be fatal. Through a very dear friend, Bob received a call from the late David Livingston, MD, at Dana-Farber who became Debbie’s oncologist. From that point forward, very little about Debbie’s experience would be conventional. Livingston started Debbie on a non-traditional protocol— there was no standard treatment at the time for her illness—and his optimism and kind nature were the perfect complement to Debbie’s positive mindset. “David gave me the confidence to know my life was going to be OK,” said Debbie. “I’m here today because of him.”

Then, in 1985, Livingston called Bob to tell him that something very nice was about to happen to him—an invitation to join Dana-Farber’s Board of Trustees. Debbie would join Bob as a Trustee in 2009, and she is also a member of the Executive Council of the Susan F. Smith Center for Women’s Cancers at Dana-Farber.

The Firsts have been Dana-Farber donors for more than three decades. “It is a privilege to give back to an organization that is wide open to new ideas and a fresh look,” said Bob. The Firsts know personally how important early detection is to successful outcomes. Bob is a prostate cancer survivor and was also treated at Dana-Farber. Their recent gift supports ovarian cancer early detection, prostate cancer early detection, and the Institute’s top priorities via the Presidential Initiatives Fund.

“Thanks to Bob and Debbie’s tenacity and vision all these years, what was once a dream—a reliable diagnostic blood test—is closer than ever,” said Dipanjan Chowdhury, PhD, who is the lead investigator in the development of the first-ever blood serum microRNA detection tool for ovarian cancer. “Their stalwart support has been instrumental to our progress and I am deeply grateful for their partnership.” For this portion of their gift, the Firsts are equally supporting Chowdhury and Kevin Elias, MD, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, who are collaborating on this work.

“So many of our highest ideals at Dana-Farber, like the value of collaboration and the importance of investing in early career scientists, evolved over the years because of committed individuals like Debbie and Bob who believed in us and challenged us to think in new ways,” said Laurie H. Glimcher, MD, president and CEO of Dana-Farber and the Richard and Susan Smith Professor of Medicine.

“It has been exciting to be engaged with an organization like Dana-Farber that isn’t satisfied with the status quo,” said Debbie.

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