A World Without Cancer is an Institute Away
April 11, 2023
Inspired by his wife’s tenacity and resilience as she fought recurrent ovarian and breast cancer, Mike Hennessy made it his life’s purpose to help improve the life of patients with cancer. As a medical publisher, he never stopped seeking opportunities to educate health care providers and patients to advance oncology care. For Patti Hennessy, her cancer journey led her to challenge oncologists, nurses and other health professionals to take more detailed family histories, to expand the options for individualized therapy and most importantly, to think outside of the box.
Patti’s journey with breast and ovarian cancer ended with her passing at age 59, nearly 10 years after she was diagnosed. But her advocacy and vision, shared by her husband Mike who died two years after her in 2021, will live on through Hackensack Meridian Health’s Hennessy Institute for Cancer Prevention and Applied Molecular Medicine: ICAP.
The couple’s four children Shannon Pulaski, Ashley Hennessy Talamo, Michael Hennessy and Christopher Hennessy, together with the Mike & Patti Hennessy Foundation, have provided a transformational grant to Hackensack Meridian John Theurer Cancer Center to found the Hennessy Institute, which will focus on early detection, genetic risk mitigation and prevention of cancer recurrence.
“We feel extremely grateful and fortunate for the Hennessy family's confidence in our mission and believe progress in technology allows us now to expand beyond cancer to the precancer and postcancer space. The precancer space includes reduction of risk factors - through lifestyle changes in particular - but also early detection (“100% cancers stage zero are curable”). In the postcancer space, the goal is to prevent recurrence either by managing MRD - measurable residual (i.e. microscopic) disease - through additional therapy, and/or detecting and managing recurrence much earlier.” said Andre Goy, M.D., M.S., chairman, John Theurer Cancer Center, chief of Lymphoma, and physician in chief for Hackensack Meridian Health Oncology.
The Institute will be housed within a planned outpatient facility in Clifton, near Hackensack Meridian’s School of Medicine and Center for Discovery and Innovation. As envisioned, the Hennessy Institute “will focus on implementation of applied molecular medicine, in particular through liquid biopsies and genomics, in a patient-centric, seamless and user-friendly manner so that people do not dread taking the steps that will help them live better lives with less worry and improved outcomes. Our goal is to empower patients and our community to take action towards preemptive medicine,” Dr. Goy said.
Just a few numbers show the immediate need for this new approach to medicine: 2/3 of cancer diagnoses and cancer deaths have - at this point - no screening test; almost ½ cancers are preventable through lifestyle changes and almost all patients with residual disease post-therapy will relapse. The Hennessy ICAP Institute will help establish a new paradigm, and launch research initiatives to show the benefit across our communities, including reducing disparities, access to innovation and better outcomes.
Funding the Hennessy Institute is a fitting tribute to her parents, who cared so deeply about improving patient cancer care, said Shannon Pulaski, executive director of the Mike & Patti Hennessy Foundation. She said her mom’s advocacy around the issue included a “call to action” that is answered in the holistic approach envisioned for the Hennessy Institute.
“In the years to come, we will see waves of innovation that will lead to better options for preventing hereditary cancer. With new institutions, like the Hennessy Institute, there will be real progress towards less invasive, more holistic offerings for high-risk individuals. We are excited to see this important preventive medicine institution become a cornerstone in the Hackensack Meridian Health family,” she said.
Mike and Patti’s children, through the Mike & Patti Hennessy Foundation, are hoping to honor their parents’ legacy of seeking innovation, collaboration and improving the quality of life for all. “We are focused on supporting solution-based initiatives that are seeking to change the game when it comes to hereditary cancer. This is certainly a game changer in that space,” Shannon said of the Hennessy Institute.
Hackensack Meridian Health is blessed by the vision of the Hennessy family and their trust in our mission, and is looking forward to working side-by-side with them to create the Hennessy Institute for Cancer Prevention and Applied Molecular Medicine. Their passion and generosity, combined with Dr. Goy’s vision, will undoubtedly change the lives of countless people.