Raising awareness of the disease their daughter has been fighting since she was 4 years old has been a top priority for Minerva and Bob Terrill of Dallas. Denise Terrill, now 29, has neurofibromatosis, a disease that has caused tumors to grow along her central nervous system, severely damaging her brain stem.
Dr. Bob Terrill, Denise’s father and a dermatologist, diagnosed his daughter’s disease when she was a toddler. Since then, Denise has endured 18 major surgeries, the first of which occurred in 1990 and resulted in her hearing loss. Confined to her bed for almost 10 years, she has lost sight in one eye. She requires a ventilator to breathe and receives nourishment through a feeding tube.
Currently there is no cure or treatment for neurofibromatosis, but researchers hope that soon will change. With an $89,000 gift from the Terrill family, raised through annual tennis and golf tournaments, Razelle Kurzrock, M.D., professor of experimental therapeutics, plans to conduct clinical research using the natural substance curcumin to block the signaling pathways in genes that enable neurofibromatosis to spread.
“There’s a wealth of data showing that curcumin inhibits the growth of tumors in pancreatic and colorectal cancer, and a lot of those pathways are the same for neurofibromatosis,” says Kurzrock. “So, the question is: Would curcumin inhibit those pathways in neurofibromatosis? The rationale sounds very strong to me.”
Last year the Denise Terrill Charity Tennis and Golf Classics set a new record by bringing in net proceeds of $113,000.
“We are so excited that we have enabled this research to go forward, giving hope to those affected by neurofibromatosis,” says Minerva. “And we are especially pleased to be funding a project at M. D. Anderson since it is in our home state of Texas, but also because if the research we are funding is successful, Dr. Kurzrock hopes to start clinical trials with curcumin within one year. That will bring much needed hope to those patients and families affected by neurofibromatosis.”