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Global Cancer Humanitarian Award Honors Pat Garcia-Gonzalez of the Max Foundation

, by Brenda Kostelecky

Drs. Ted Trimble (R) and Larry Shulman (L) present Pat Garcia-Gonzalez (C) with the National Cancer Institute, Global Cancer Medicine Humanitarian Award

At its core, cancer research is about improving and saving lives of those afflicted by cancer. The Max Foundation, led by CEO and co-founder Pat Garcia-Gonzalez, has been widely credited with helping to save the lives of thousands of patients with chronic myeloid leukemia (CML) worldwide by helping patients access the cancer drug imatinib. Pat’s work to bring the fruits of cancer research to patients in low- and middle-income countries inspired the creation of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) Global Cancer Medicine Humanitarian Award; and she the award’s first honoree.

Pat Garcia-Gonzalez started the Max Foundation as a tribute to her step-son, Max, who was diagnosed with CML in 1988 at the age of 14 and passed away in 1991. Thirteen years following Max’s diagnosis, imatinib was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat CML patients. Pat saw imatinib’s enormous potential to allow many patients to live a normal lifestyle, but recognized that the drug’s high cost meant that many patients in low- and middle-income countries would have no access to this life-saving treatment. Despite tremendous hurdles, Pat and her team at the Max Foundation worked with the pharmaceutical company, Novartis, to establish a mechanism to provide imatinib to patients in low-resource settings. 

Pat graciously accepted the first annual NCI Global Cancer Medicine Humanitarian Award at the NCI, Center for Global Health Symposium for Global Cancer Research, held in Boston on March 25, 2015. Her acceptance speech highlighted the collaborations that have made her work possible, and the rewarding relationships she has built with CML patients in low-resource countries. Pat’s outstanding work at the Max Foundation to advance cancer care equity continues to inspire cancer researchers, care providers, advocates, and policymakers in the drive toward better cancer care equity throughout the world.