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Honoring Her ‘Angel’

A patient’s planned gift supports pancreatic cancer research

Kathleen Garafola with her dogs, Myssi and George, who provided emotional support throughout her cancer journey.


fter an attempted surgery at a South Florida community hospital, doctors diagnosed Kathleen Garafola with locally advanced, unresectable pancreatic cancer. Debilitated and devastated, she knew exactly what that meant. Garafola had already lost her mother, brother, sister and niece to this disease, the third-leading cause of cancer death in the United States.

That was more than three years ago, and Garafola, now 58 and living in Pompano Beach, Florida, firmly believes she is here today — cancer-free — because of Jashodeep Datta, M.D., co-leader of the Gastrointestinal Site Disease Group at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center. After Garafola had undergone nearly six months of chemotherapy, Dr. Datta, who is also associate director of translational research at the Sylvester Pancreatic Cancer Research Institute, performed a challenging 10-hour surgery to remove the cancer.

“Dr. Datta is my angel. He took a chance on me when I was prepared for the absolute worst,” said Garafola. “I’ve never met anyone so passionate about helping people. I believe deeply in his work and told him that I would do whatever I could to help him learn all he can about this disease and discover a cure.”

To honor that pledge, Garafola arranged to make a planned gift bequeathing a generous portion of her and her late husband’s estate to support Dr. Datta’s research.

“We are at the forefront of discovery, zooming in on the inherited susceptibility of pancreatic cancers and understanding the molecular basis of sensitivity to both chemotherapy and immunotherapy,” said Dr. Datta, who is the DiMare Family Endowed Chair in Immunotherapy. “We can then harness that information to offer novel drug combinations to make those responses even better.”

Both doctor and patient are hopeful that a cure is within reach through Dr. Datta’s research and Garafola’s philanthropy.

Dr. Datta added, “I always say that the best scientific questions are derived from the most meaningful clinical insights, and I got so many insights from taking care of Kathy.”

For more information on planned giving, visit the Office of Estate and Gift Planning page.