The Hale family legacy drives pancreatic cancer research

November marks Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month. This month and throughout the year, we recognize the many pancreatic cancer patients, past and present, at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and beyond, while giving thanks to the generous donors who support the Institute and its work to defy this difficult disease.

One generous family has had a profound impact on pancreatic cancer research and clinical care at Dana-Farber because of the impact this disease has had on them. Throughout the past two decades, Dana-Farber Trustee Judy Hale and her son, Rob Jr., and his wife, Karen, have made transformational gifts to the institute to honor the memory of her late husband, Robert “Bob” T. Hale Sr., who was treated at Dana-Farber for pancreatic cancer. The Hale Family has become a tremendous philanthropic partner for the institute.

“Our intention has been to substantially speed the pace of research and new treatments for this terrible disease,” says Judy Hale. “We have and continue to invest in the exceptional talent at Dana-Farber because we are committed to finding a cure. That would be a wonderful honor for my husband and legacy for our family.” The National Cancer Institute estimates that there will be 61,430 new cases of pancreatic cancer diagnosed in 2021 in the United States. Pancreatic cancer is a very complex disease to treat, since symptoms are often not apparent until the cancer has advanced to the point where it has spread beyond the pancreas. This disease is the third-leading cause of cancer death in the U.S. However, patients and their families have hope thanks to recent advancements in research and care.

“We have made important progress over the past decade,” says Brian Wolpin, MD, MPH, director of the Hale Family Center for Pancreatic Cancer Research and the Robert T. and Judith B. Hale Chair in Pancreatic Cancer at Dana-Farber. “Today we have a better understanding of the molecular basis for pancreatic cancer, and we are using this knowledge to develop new therapy approaches. We have reached this point because of the incredible support of the Dana-Farber community, including the Hale family.”

The Hale Family Center for Pancreatic Cancer Research is fueling a pioneering effort to address challenges in pancreatic cancer prevention, diagnosis, and treatment. For example, the team established one of the most sophisticated clinical trials programs for pancreatic cancer in the world to quickly bring new therapies from the laboratory to the clinic. The generous support from the Hale family also helped Dana-Farber to establish a leading comprehensive early detection program for patients with inherited risk of pancreatic cancer, which is now a model for other centers. Building upon this progress, the Center continues to work toward a cure.

“Dana-Farber was there for our family with compassion and care when my dad was sick,” Rob Hale, CEO at Granite Telecommunications and co-founder of Copley Equity Partners, said recently at the WEEI/NESN Jimmy Fund Radio-Telethon presented by Arbella Insurance, where he shared his story and advocated for support of the Institute. “He sadly passed away, but we honor his memory by supporting the geniuses at Dana-Farber who are going to eradicate this disease. Our family is honored to be able to support this work so that the world can be positively affected by it.”

Add your support to these efforts by making a gift through The Dana-Farber Campaign, our ambitious, multi-year fundraising effort to prevent, treat, and defy cancer. The Dana-Farber Campaign will accelerate the Institute’s strategic priorities by supporting revolutionary science, extraordinary care, and exceptional expertise. As a community, we have the power to create a more hopeful, cancer-free future—in Boston and around the world. Together, we can defy cancer at every turn. Learn more about The Dana-Farber Campaign at