While November marks Lung Cancer Awareness Month, the memories of those who lost their lives to lung cancer last forever. Each day is a reminder, often painful, which the family and friends of Courtney Cox Cole know too well.
In 2014, only a month after completing a marathon, Noblesville, Indiana-native Courtney was diagnosed with EGFR-mutant lung cancer. It was stage III at the time, eventually metastasizing to her bones and making it stage IV. An all-star, award-winning athlete since her youth, who went on to play basketball and golf at Indiana University (IU), she notably claimed that cancer was her toughest rival.
Tragically, Courtney succumbed to lung cancer a short five years later at the age of 48.
“The wounds cut deep,” recounted Cayla Cole, one of her two children. Now a junior at Courtney’s alma mater, IU, Cayla was a newly minted 17-year-old when her mom passed away. “I blocked out many details to protect myself from reliving the experience. While I knew her prognosis wasn’t good, I convinced myself she’d live forever. My mom thought she’d live forever, too. She had the mindset of beating cancer.”
Spirit and Strength
Courtney’s competitive spirit and incredible strength were matched in the corporate world where she and her sister, Monica Peck, were sixth generation co-owners of a successful car dealership until selling the business in early 2017. “She was my best friend, my business partner, my everything,” Monica said, adding, “Charity and giving back to the community have always been important facets of our family dynamic. Courtney found comfort in inspiring other lung cancer patients and their families through her volunteer work with the American Lung Association, including participation in the Fight For Air Climb.”
To commemorate Courtney’s life, her family and friends came together to fund a $1 million research endowment—the first-ever Courtney Cox Cole Endowed Lung Cancer Research Fund. According to Cayla, “We started this fund as our way of continuing my mom’s legacy. We don’t want other people going through what she went through or feeling the pain we’re feeling.”
Funding Revolutionary Research
In the fight against lung cancer, every dollar counts. The inaugural Courtney Cox Cole Lung Cancer Research Award, a special distinction of the Lung Association’s annual Lung Cancer Discovery Award aiming to revolutionize lung cancer diagnostic, clinical and treatment methods, was presented to Wei Tao, PhD, of Harvard University-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. Dr. Tao is conducting groundbreaking work on combination lung cancer therapies using nanoparticles to deliver experimental drugs through inhalation. This novel treatment method could revolutionize how we approach the devastating disease.
“It’s a great honor for me to be selected as the recipient of this prestigious award,” chimed in Dr. Tao, who additionally serves as an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School. “As a Lung Association investigator, I’ll do my best to develop useful strategies based on nanotechnology, drug delivery technologies and RNA medicine to benefit a wide range of patients with lung cancer.” He concluded, “I also want to sincerely thank the Cole family for their generous support.”
The marathon is far from over. However, thanks to the dedication of Courtney’s impressive network of supporters and out-of-the-box thinkers like Dr. Tao, there is hope for a brighter, lung cancer-free future.
Blog last updated: November 1, 2023