When Katy Rady lost her brother, Paul R. O’Hara II to cancer, she turned her despair into an enduring tribute funding research at the University of Colorado Cancer Center. We are honored to announce that Katy and her husband, also named Paul, have established the Paul R. O’Hara II Endowed Chair in Esophageal Cancer at the CU Cancer Center.
Madeleine Kane, MD, PhD, CU Cancer Center member and CU School of Medicine professor of medicine, led Paul’s care and is the first to hold the chair in his name.
O’Hara was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in January 2015 in Michigan. A series of conversations with family and close friends brought him to University of Colorado Cancer Center to see Dr. Kane. Katy Rady and her husband Paul live in the Denver metro area.
“My brother, Paul, and I shared the highs and lows and joys and sorrows of life,” Rady says. “His cancer journey was grueling and heartbreaking and it was my privilege to be there for Paul. Dr. Kane was the lifeline of hope that helped us get from day to the next.”
Paul’s cancer was under control for several months but ultimately it was unstoppable. He chose to stop treatment and then passed away in October 2015. “This chair is the greatest honor of my professional career,” says Kane. “The Rady’s gift is emblematic of their love for Paul. Their amazing generosity will heighten awareness of esophageal cancer and improve outcomes for people with this disease.”
The endowed chair in esophageal cancer was made possible by the Rady’s gift of $3.15 million. The gift will fund promising research in the search for a cure for esophageal cancer, with a portion going directly to seed grants that directly fund creative, innovative projects that have the potential to rapidly improve treatment and care.
The projects, which will begin right away, include:
- a biobank to document the genetic and tissue changes leading to esophageal cancer and its progression
- identification of biomarkers to better predict the success of various therapies
- a clinical trial of promising combinations of radiation therapy and existing drugs to optimize the effectiveness of treatments
- growing the cancer clinical trials program at Denver Health Medical Center
Kane says some results may be available within a year.
“Thanks to this chair and this research, Paul will not be forgotten,” Kane says. “It was a pleasure knowing him and a privilege to care from him.”
In addition to their latest gift, the Radys also funded several cancer research seed grants in 2015.
“After Paul died, a care giver at The Denver Hospice said the story of Paul’s death won’t always be the story of his life,” says Katy. “I am finally starting to believe that.”
Katy talked about Paul O’Hara II at a celebration of the endowed chair in her brother’s name. By many accounts, Paul was a man who thrived on knowing how things worked. He threw himself into learning about his cancer and was incredibly proud of his son, Conor, who now lives with Katy and her family while attending CU Boulder.