Honouring Lee Pettersen

Dear Supporter:

This letter is a thank you for your generous donation, and to bring you up to date, for your support of the BRAS Drug Development Program’s ‘Nurse Navigator’ position. The Nurse Navigator role is critical to ensuring continuity of care for women with ovarian cancer being cared for at Princess Margaret. We have the privilege of writing and sharing with you the amazing opportunity Lee Pettersen has created for women diagnosed with ovarian and other gynecologic cancers. As part of her legacy, Lee and her incredible spirit and drive, will help current and future patients at Princess Margaret.

The Nurse Navigator is a critical member of our team. It is a structural support for all patients, with the responsibility of bridging transitions in care, from clinical trials/research studies to standard of care and back. You may not know this, but Princess Margaret is home to one of the largest early phase ovarian cancer programs in Canada, enrolling more than 150 women per year onto trials. This is in addition to the women we are actively caring for, who may already be on a trial, or who may be best suited for standard therapies and clinical care following participation on a trial.

The Nurse Navigator’s role is vital in helping our patients with complex care and overall coordination of care, during times of transition between our many teams here at Princess Margaret. This role is critical to ensuring our patients have a member of our team advocating and following our patients between teams and, ultimately, when care plans need to change in a manner that is consistent. This will ensure the sharing of all relevant information.

Our team had the privilege of caring for Lee for more than seven years and benefiting from her incredible spirit and desire to enable change. The Nurse Navigator role will ensure our patients maintain a sense of well-being and consistency when living with cancer, and, at times when this disease tries its best to stripe this away. Lee was a true visionary, and her legacy will help ensure our patients have seamless transitions between the many teams here at Princess Margaret, and access to increased education and awareness of clinical trials opportunities, especially as our research and standard of care portfolios expand in scope and complexity.

In 2017, as a result of a generous donation, and of a $9.91m award from the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, our team is one of the first in the world to establish a program integrating scientists and healthcare teams across Ontario! This program will aggressively examine ovarian cancer, and importantly, how this disease morphs from a ‘whisper’ into one that is therapeutically insidious.

The Ontario-wide Biomarker Discovery Trial (BioDIVA) is profiling women with high grade serous ovarian cancer from the time of diagnosis, and throughout their disease, to examine how cancer changes and matures over time – and as a result of their treatment. As a participant on this study, this will include tissue, blood and ascites samples being obtained, when and if appropriate. It also allows eligible women to participate on a clinical trial that does not involve a therapy but does involve close interaction with our trials team. As such, the Nurse Navigator will be essential in working with our patients to understand the trial; other trials that maybe available to them at different times in their treatment course, as well as when standard therapies are the most appropriate therapy option.

We have launched a complementary trial for all women diagnosed with gynecologic cancers (VENUS trial), which is now uncovering important new information around the biology of all gynecologic cancers. We know from Lee and our other patients, how overwhelming treatment information and the thought of changing to a new healthcare team can be, especially at times when you feel most vulnerable.

Lee’s legacy with the Nurse Navigator position, will ensure that our patients feel comfortable and confident with their treatment plan, and confident when transitioning to other members of the Princess Margaret healthcare family. Without Lee’s vision and the incredible support of her friends and family, this opportunity would not be possible. Thank you! Lee’s generosity of spirit and unwavering care of others is now ensuring that all women feel supported, and that they receive the quality of care and support she had from those who loved her the most.

On behalf of the entire team at Princess Margaret, we thank you for the opportunity to transform the care of our patients, their families and most importantly, for the opportunity to ensure that we are caring for women and their families to the absolute best of our ability.


Maggie Bras
President, BRAS DDP Advisory

Dr. Amit M. Oza, Bergsagel Chair in Medical Oncology
Professor of Medicine, University of Toronto
Head, Division of Medical Oncology and Hematology
Director, Clinical Cancer Research and
Bras Drug Development Program

We mourn the loss of our dear friend Lee Pettersen. This was the message she wrote…

Dear Friends, Family and Loyal RIDE Supporters,

Normally, at this time of year, I would be regaling you with tall tales of training for the RTCC on my road bike in a sunny window. This is the tenth year of The RIDE, and was to be my ninth time doing the 220 kms. Sadly, in the past several months, my health has continued to decline and I am not longer able to participate. My focus has changed and I’m broadening my request for your support in a different place this time around.

I no longer have any treatment options so I am asking everyone to support me by donating to The Bras Drug Development Program (BDDP) at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre. This program is overseen by my doctor, Dr. Oza, and was created by my friend Maggie Bras, whose husband died because there were no drugs to treat his cancer. After I made my donation to the BDDP, I was told by Dr. Oza that they were creating a “Nurse Navigator” position and naming it in my honour. This “Nurse Navigator’” will help patients (like me) transition from the intensive care they get in Clinical Trials, to the reality that there are no other options. And trust me, this is a huge transition. While I continue to hope that they will come up with something, the reality is that it’s not likely.

I know you receive so many requests for donations, and if your 2017 charitable dollars are committed elsewhere, believe me I will understand. And I know I will have your support in other ways as I always have. No amount is too small. In 2015, I launched a “buy me a coffee” push to help our team get over $1 million, which raised another $1,000 towards our goal – I guess my friends are Starbucks drinkers, not Tim’s!

Below is the link. On the website, you will also find a speech I gave to at a research convention from the perspective of a patient on a clinical trial:


Please accept my heartfelt thanks.