Giving Back Hope

Donahue Developmental Therapeutics Unit offers hope for advanced cancer patients 

A generous donation from Dan and Kay Donahue has helped us develop the Donahue Developmental Therapeutics Unit, located at Novant Health Forsyth Medical Center. The center offers experimental treatments and medicines to advanced cancer patients, enabling them to access resources that would otherwise not be available locally.

Novant Health Cancer Institute in 2021 treated its first patient with a new drug being tested on non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Thanks to clinical research investments made by Novant Health and philanthropy by Dan and Kay Donahue to build the Donahue Developmental Therapeutics Unit, a Novant Health patient was the first in the world to receive an immunotherapy drug as part of a first-in-human phase I clinical trial.

The patient, whose lymphoma was no longer responding to chemotherapy, participated in the milestone research at the Donahue Developmental Therapeutics Unit in Winston-Salem. This unit was created because of the Donahues’ dedication to lifesaving cancer care and Novant Health’s commitment to advanced care made possible by research.

Dan and Kay first became familiar with Novant Health after it acquired Reynolds American Inc.’s health organization in the 1990s. Dan was an executive at Reynolds, and later he and Kay worked as attorneys for Womble Bond Dickenson law firm. “Both organizations support giving back to the community, and we have benefited so much from Novant Health’s wonderful service. We want to give back, and also encourage people to give not only for themselves but for others and future generations,” Kay said.

“The drug being tested in this trial is a type of immunotherapy, which harnesses the body’s own immune system to fight cancer. Immunotherapy can be an elegant, effective solution to a serious disease,” said Frank Chen, MD, physician executive with Novant Health Cancer Institute. “Usually, first-in-human phase 1 trial are only possible at academic medical centers — but thanks in large part to the Donahue family’s gift to Novant Health Foundation, we’re able to offer leading-edge clinical trials close to home.