Becky and her husband Hank came to UNC in 1996 after Hank was diagnosed with a very aggressive form of prostate cancer. When Hank’s PSA count continued to climb, they decided to discontinue the clinical trial that Hank was on and try a new study. This is what lead Becky and Hank to work with Dr. Young Whang.
Becky said, “I have the utmost respect for Dr. Whang and his medical abilities, but it was his personal care that went way beyond for both Hank and me.” Becky recalled one of their office visits when Dr. Whang sat patiently with them answering questions and addressing their concerns.
“We must have been with him for over an hour and at the end of the appointment Dr. Whang calmly said ‘if you do not mind I am going to go, my son is having surgery right now.’ I remember feeling shocked because I knew how I would have felt having my child in surgery and wanting to be there for them.” Becky went on to explain that Dr. Whang always made them feel like there was nothing more important than Hank’s care and their family.
After nine years of battling the disease, Hank lost his fight in 2005, but Becky and Dr. Whang have continued to team up against prostate cancer. Through the Thompson family’s generosity, Dr. Whang has identified a protein called Ack1 that he believes drives the progression of prostate cancer. His lab is now trying to develop a drug to inhibit the protein’s activity, which could lead to a new treatment that will work better and have fewer side effects than traditional chemotherapy. Such findings would result in better outcomes for patients diagnosed with aggressive forms of prostate cancer that are resistant to the standard treatment protocols.
Becky and her children established the Willis H. Thompson, III Prostate Cancer Research Fund to support Dr. Whang’s research.
Becky shared, “I would not want anyone to go through what Hank and I went through battling this aggressive form of prostate cancer. Nobody in Hank’s family had ever had prostate cancer before his diagnosis.”
The Thompsons know that research is the best hope for making progress against prostate cancer.