Grateful families give $250,000 for breast cancer research

By Sharon Reynolds

Three generations of Aaron women:
Dawn, Morgan, and Carol

The families of Todd and Dawn Aaron and Steven L. and Carol Aaron made a combined gift of $250,000 to support triple-negative breast cancer research at UT Southwestern’s Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center.

The gift was inspired by Todd and Dawn’s daughter, Morgan, who is also the granddaughter of Steven and Carol. In 2016 at the age of 28, Morgan was diagnosed with stage 4, triple-negative breast cancer that had metastasized to her brain. Because triple-negative breast cancer is not fueled by hormones, it does not respond to hormonal therapy medicines, making treatment options limited.

Within days of diagnosis, UT Southwestern doctors removed five brain tumors using the Gamma Knife, a noninvasive radiosurgery instrument that requires no incision, instead using precisely focused beams of radiation that do not harm surrounding healthy tissue. Her treatment continued with chemotherapy, surgery, radiation, and two additional Gamma Knife procedures.

Today, Morgan is a 2½-year cancer survivor who is cancer-free and enjoying life.

“When I was cleared to leave my diagnosis behind, that’s exactly what I did,” Morgan said. “I’m really happy. I’ve reached new heights, made new friends, and started taking on new challenges. Life is really starting again.”

“The generosity of grateful families like the Aarons continues to help UT Southwestern nurture the scientific discoveries that bring good health and hope to others,” said Dr. Daniel K. Podolsky, President of UT Southwestern. “There are currently no targeted therapies for triple-negative breast cancer tumors, and this gift helps our researchers take aim at the disease.”

The Aaron families are passionate about supporting the research in honor of Morgan’s team – Drs. Barbara Haley, Robert Timmerman, and Toral Patel – to develop new, more effective treatments that will change the future for others diagnosed with the disease.

“How do you thank someone for saving your daughter’s life?” asked Dawn. “We are thankful to UT Southwestern and for the incredible work of her medical team. We were in such fine hands – such capable, compassionate, brilliant hands. It was with a human touch the entire way.”

Steven is the founder, Chairman, CEO, and CFO of Stevens Transport, the largest refrigerated trucking company in Texas. His son, Todd, is Vice Chairman, and Morgan is a corporate recruiter for the company. The families are grateful to UT Southwestern, and they hope their gift will help further knowledge to advance treatment of triple-negative breast cancer.

“We will live our lives in gratitude to UT Southwestern,” Dawn said. “For our family and those who witnessed this horrific diagnosis, it almost feels like a rebirth. Morgan is more alive, more engaged, more appreciative of every moment. She’s brilliant; she just shines. It’s brought us all closer together and it’s given us a better focus on life. I am thankful every day, not so much for the cancer, but for the blessings that came through this diagnosis and what it’s given to Morgan.”

Dr. Haley, Professor of Internal Medicine, holds the Charles Cameron Sprague, M.D. Chair in Clinical Oncology.

Dr. Patel is Assistant Professor of Neurological Surgery and Neurology and Neurotherapeutics.

Dr. Podolsky holds the Philip O’Bryan Montgomery, Jr., M.D. Distinguished Presidential Chair in Academic Administration, and the Doris and Bryan Wildenthal Distinguished Chair in Medical Science.

Dr. Timmerman, Professor of Radiation Oncology and Neurological Surgery, holds the Effie Marie Cain Distinguished Chair in Cancer Therapy Research.