SAN ANTONIO (April 28, 2008) – Her mission was simple – to raise awareness of ovarian cancer by educating women about the disease and support research to help fight the “silent killer.” Even though ovarian cancer took the life of Sue Merrill in January of this year, her mission continues to be carried out by her friends at the Alamo Ovarian Cancer Alliance through an $8,000 donation in her name to The Cancer Therapy & Research Center (CTRC) at The University of Texas Health Science Center to be used for ovarian cancer research.
After battling breast cancer twice, Merrell was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2001, and shortly thereafter, she founded the Alamo Ovarian Cancer Alliance (AOCA). Serving as the organization’s president until the time of her death, her passion was to raise awareness of the symptoms of ovarian cancer, educate women to take charge of their own health, and raise funds for ovarian cancer research.
“Sue was a dynamic and enthusiastic leader,” said Linda Tarver, friend of Merrell and vice president of AOCA. “Her commitment to encouraging women to be advocates for their own health was phenomenal. Saving women from an advanced ovarian cancer diagnosis is what energized Sue.”
The donation to CTRC is a tribute to Merrell, celebrating her life and her foresight to create the AOCA by partnering with the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance. Over the years, she served as an advocate for women’s health through her involvement in organizations and programs such as Reach to Recovery, American Cancer Society, and Alamo Breast Cancer Foundation, among others.
“It was my pleasure and privilege to be Sue’s physician. Her dedication to ovarian cancer research was very inspiring,” said Tyler Curiel, M.D., ovarian cancer specialist and executive director of The Cancer Center (which includes CTRC) at The UT Health Science Center San Antonio. “We will use these research dollars to help finish a promising line of investigation into a new treatment for ovarian cancer that could be ready as early as this year. I think that Sue would be proud of what we are doing with these funds.”
According to the American Cancer Society, an estimated 21,650 new cases of ovarian cancer and 15,520 ovarian cancer deaths are expected in the United States in 2008. Early ovarian cancer usually has no obvious symptoms. No routine screening for woman at average risk is recommended because no reliable screening test is currently available. However, recent studies indicate that some women may experience persistent, non-specific symptoms, such as bloating, pelvic or abdominal pain, difficulty eating or feeling full quickly, or urinary urgency or frequency.
The risk for ovarian cancer increases with age and peaks in the late 70s. Heavier body weight may also be associated with increased risk of the disease. Women who have had breast cancer or have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer are at an increased risk.
The Cancer Therapy & Research Center at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, located in San Antonio, Texas, is one of the nation’s leading academic research and treatment centers, serving more than 4.4 million people in the high-growth corridor of Central and South Texas including Austin, San Antonio, Laredo and the Rio Grande Valley. CTRC is one of a few elite cancer centers in the country to be named a National Cancer Institute-designated (NCI) Cancer Center, and is one of only three in Texas. CTRC handles more than 120,000 patient visits each year and is a world leader in developing new drugs to treat cancer. The CTRC Institute for Drug Development (IDD) is internationally recognized for conducting the largest oncology Phase I clinical drug trials program in the world, and has participated in the clinical and/or preclinical development of many of the cancer drugs approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration. For more information, visit www.ctrc.uthscsa.edu.