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Gift in memory of Phran Galante boosts lung cancer research

Feb. 25, 2021, 8:04 AM


by Tom Wilemon

A gift in memory of music industry executive and community philanthropist Phran Galante will support the work of Christine Lovly, MD, PhD, associate professor of Medicine and Ingram Professor of Cancer Research, to improve targeted therapies for lung cancer.

A gift in memory of the late music executive Phran Galante, shown here with her husband, Joe Galante, will support the work of Christine Lovly, MD, PhD.

Phran Galante was a champion for homeless pets, sick children and cancer research in her philanthropic endeavors. A lung cancer patient herself, she died on Sept. 23, 2019.

The gift in her memory is being administered by the Shalom Foundation with support from Nashville music artists and executives.

“[Phran’s] care helped put this research in motion,” her friend Kenny Chesney told The Tennessean.

“Even though she’s physically not here, she’s still making a profound difference. When you know the research you’re funding is the same medical treatment that extended your friend’s life — that made such a difference for her — it’s an honor to be a part of it,” the country music star said.

Galante joined RCA Nashville in 1983, where she produced music videos for Alabama, K.T. Oslin and Ronnie Milsap. She was part of the original staff that launched Arista Nashville records and developed marketing plans for numerous artists including Alan Jackson. She then moved to New York City with her husband, Joe Galante, and joined BMG Kidz.

When she and Joe moved back to Nashville in 1995, she began to advocate for more humane care of animals, pushing for improvements to the city animal shelter and founding a community-based group that worked with Nashville to reduce the rate of euthanasia. She raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt with her dedication to the Music City Tennis Invitational. She brightened the hospital stays of children by recruiting music artists to play for them.

“Phran lit up a room with her positive energy and warm, caring nature,” Lovly said.

Phran Galante was in the prime of life when she was diagnosed with EGFR-mutant lung cancer in March 2016. She and her husband scheduled a medical consultation with Lovly, who is an expert on EGFR-mutant and other molecular subsets of lung cancer.

“Meeting the Galantes changed my life. I saw them in clinic and just made a connection,” she said.

Phran Galante and Lovly had much in common, having both grown up in New York and both being animal lovers. Lovly shared stories about Teagan, her deaf dog, and Galante began baking him homemade dog biscuits. The Galantes often invited Lovly into their home, including for Thanksgiving.

“For years now, I’ve gone to her house at Thanksgiving,” Lovly said. “She and Joe were so incredibly generous with everything, including making me a member of their broader family. Phran would have all these fun games to play at Thanksgiving in addition to a really amazing spread of food she had prepared for her family and friends.”

The gift will fund research to eradicate cancer cells that often remain after patients have responded to therapies.

“These drugs can be very effective, but they are not 100% effective. In the world of cancer research, if a tumor shrinks by 60% that’s considered a success. We call that a response. We tell our patients they are responding, but the response is not complete. How can we take a partial response and turn it into a complete response?” Lovly said.

“These funds will be used to study cancers like Phran’s that have specific DNA mutations that are treated with precision medicines, also known as targeted therapies or personalized medicine. These targeted therapies can be very effective with fewer drug side effects — but we are still not curing patients. This was true in Phran’s case. Even after taking the drug, we still see tumor on the CT scan. My lab is very interested in studying what is called ‘drug-tolerant persistor cells’ — the tumor cells that remain even after the patient has had a dramatic — yet incomplete — response to therapy. We want to find ways to get rid of those drug-tolerant persistor cells and turn incomplete responses into cures.

“Phran had a huge heart and was always doing for others. I know she would love the idea that this gift in her honor will help other patients in the future,” Lovly said.

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