Dodge County family donates $15 million to advance rare cancer research

NOW: Dodge County family donates $15 million to advance rare cancer research

WAUWATOSA, Wis. (CBS 58)-- A Dodge County family is donating $15 million to Froedtert and the Medical College of Wisconsin with hopes of advancing rare cancer research.

Out of all of the cancer research centers in the world, the Michels family chose to keep their donation in Wisconsin, because this is where their own cancer journey began.

"Almost 10 years ago we came right up this driveway, Sophie in the back seat, went up to the emergency room and within an hour found out the devastating news. Sophie had a very rare brain cancer," Tim Michels said. 

When Sophie Michels was 11 years old, she was diagnosed with Choroid Plexus Carcinoma (CPC), a rare, cancerous brain tumor.

"This is what feels like home," Sophie Michels said. "We didn't have to fly across the country for me to get the best medical treatment I could get."

The Michels family said they think researchers at Froedtert and Medical College of Wisconsin are doing work just as good, if not better, than other top cancer research centers in the United States.

"This is going to move the needle. This is going to make a difference for rare cancer research," Tim Michels said.

Rare cancer doesn't attract the same level of attention as big name cancers like lung, colon, breast and prostate, which means it often gets financially overlooked.

"Among our greatest research and funding challenges is addressing the burden of rare cancers. Those cancers that affect less than 15 out of every 100 diagnoses made," Cancer Center Director at Froedtert and the Medical College of Wisconsin Dr. Gustavo Leone said.

Dr. Leone said there are more than 180 rare cancers, which account for about a quarter of all cancers.

"Since there are fewer cases to study and treat for each one of them though, it's more difficult to test new therapies, and for this same reason securing funding is also a challenge," Leone said.

This gift will have a direct impact on research being done to find treatments and cures for rare cancers.

"We're just doing our little part," Tim Michels said.

Their little part will have a huge impact in helping other families find the same favorable outcome.

"Every day is a great day, and we consider this a great success story," Tim Michels said.

Sophie Michels is currently working toward a degree at a university in Boston.

Tim Michels is the co-owner of Michels Corporation. 

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