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Why I support ovarian cancer research

National screening programmes, preventative surgery and high-profile awareness campaigns are all helping more women than ever to win the fight against breast cancer. Yet awareness of other cancers still remains low. Thanks to a generous gift from Farid Suleman (Production Engineering, 1974) a new Nottingham fellowship is driving forward exciting new treatments for ovarian cancer, offering fresh hope to women around the world. 

“I don’t know if Naaz would be happy that she has a fellowship named after her – she would definitely be surprised!" said Farid. "My sister was a very caring person, generous with her talents and time. I’ve always been a committed businessman, so she would be delighted that she influenced me to help others.”

In late 2015, Farid’s sister, Naaz Coker, died from ovarian cancer. Frustrated by the treatment she received, Farid has joined forces with the University to create the Naaz Coker Fellowship, supporting critical research into ovarian cancer led by expert researcher and clinician, Dr Srinivasan Madhusadan. 

 

I wish I had met Dr Madhusadan earlier, while Naaz was still alive. Cancer is something you don’t think about until it really hits home and by then, it’s too late

 

“What struck me about Naaz’s experience is that treatment protocols seemed limited, dated and minimal – they are not even standardised” said Farid. 

“It was a shock. I had assumed that state-of-the-art research was happening by someone, somewhere, but then we struggled to find the help Naaz needed. 11 women in the UK die from ovarian cancer every day, thousands more around the world, yet even diagnosis often takes months. I felt angry – why wasn’t something being done about this.”  

Remembering Naaz


Naaz Coker

Naaz Coker dedicated over 45 years of her life to helping others, working in the public and voluntary sectors. She was born in Tanzania and came to the UK to pursue her education and career. A successful and intelligent leader, she became Chair of St George’s Healthcare NHS Trust, a Non Executive Director on the National Audit Office Board as well as a trustee of The Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, C3 Collaborating for Health and the Clore Social Leadership Programme. During her two decades in the NHS she held many leadership roles ranging from Pharmaceutical and Clinical Director to General Manager of an acute hospital in London.

She wrote widely on leadership and management, racism and ethnic health inequalities in the NHS. She was generous with her skills and expertise, and held numerous voluntary appointments including Chair of the British Refugee Council, Chair of Shelter, a trustee and deputy Chair of the RSA. In November 2009, she was awarded the lifetime achievement award in the Lloyds TSB Jewel Awards for her contribution to public life. Her friend and colleague Dame Mary Marsh (Geography, 1968) recollects working with Naaz at the Clore Social Leadership Programme:  

“As the Founding Director, I had the privilege to work with Naaz in her role as a wise and engaged Trustee, providing active support and advice as this new initiative became established in its early years. With learning and insight from her own extraordinary leadership journey, Naaz contributed much time and skill to the Fellows, particularly as a coach and mentor.  I benefited so much too and I remember her wisdom, warmth and generosity with great affection."

“I owe so much to my sister – she was the one who helped and encouraged me to move to the UK from Tanzania when I was just a young man to pursue an education that would change my life. On a return visit to Nottingham I met Dr Madhusadan, who is working on developing personalised treatments for ovarian cancer using DNA targeting. This involves using weaknesses within the cancer cell DNA repair mechanisms to target and kill the cancer cells without destroying the surrounding healthy tissue, by developing drugs specifically focused on ovarian cancer. I knew that this was the type of work I had been looking for and could see how my support would help Dr Madhusadan to progress his research faster. The fact that it is happening at my former University is nice but it is research quality that matters most to me – it’s a double win that Nottingham is the place where this type of forward-thinking research is happening”. 

 

Farid Suleman

Farid Suleman

“My hope now is that people will join me in making this fellowship into something much bigger – the type of large-scale research programme ovarian cancer urgently needs. Long-term survival rates are just too low – only 35% of patients live for more than 10 years post diagnosis. For women over 60, the survival rates are even lower and that is not acceptable.”

 

“I’d say to anyone reading this – if you have a mother, sister, daughter or female friend – one day, this research could help the women you love. Innovative ovarian cancer research is desperately needed and it’s happening here in Nottingham. If you can join me by making a gift, then please do. This fellowship is too late for Naaz but it will help others, and that’s something she would be proud of.” 

 

Join Farid and support our Ovarian Cancer Fellowship – give a gift today