Ozgener Family Responds to Cancer by Supporting Research
by Jill Clendening | Thursday, Dec. 15, 2016, 9:19 AM
Nashville entrepreneur-turned-artist Cano Ozgener and his family have repeatedly faced cancer and its consequences, but rather than feel embattled, they’ve chosen to respond by creating beauty to share with others and by actively supporting the mission of the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center (VICC).
Ozgener and his wife, Esen, established the Esen and Cano Ozgener Research Fund in 2010. Their gift supports VICC investigators working in the field of tumor immunology, as well as the recruitment of research faculty.
The Ozgener family also gives their time; Cano serves on the VICC Board of Overseers, and daughter Aylin is a member of the VICC Ambassadors (formerly the Young Ambassadors). The family has also hosted VICC events, including the annual Cancer Survivors’ Celebration held in 2016 at the Ozgeners’ latest business venture, Oz Arts. A calm oasis within the otherwise industrial setting of Cockrill Bend, Oz Arts is a Nashville arts venue for contemporary performance and visual arts.
“The generosity of the Ozgener family is fueling opportunities for scientific breakthroughs and is an investment in our best and brightest minds in oncology research,” said Jennifer Pietenpol, Ph.D., director of the VICC, B.F. Byrd Jr. Professor of Oncology and Executive Vice President for Research.
“We appreciate their confidence in our efforts as we move toward our goal of curing cancer. Their support will have a positive, far-reaching impact for generations to come.”
In 2002, a troubling lump on his neck led to Cano (pronounced Johno) Ozgener’s diagnosis of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Following chemotherapy, he remained cancer free for three years. The cancer returned in 2005, and he received a stem cell transplant. In 2011, he underwent heart surgery, including a triple bypass and replacement of his aortic valve that had been damaged by chemotherapy. More recently, Esen Ozgener received a diagnosis of stage 1 breast cancer in 2015, and Cano Ozgener was diagnosed with prostate cancer in early 2016. They are both being treated at VICC, and rather than retreat from the world due to these additional diagnoses, the Ozgeners have reacted by actively supporting the work of Vanderbilt investigators.
“The cause is very big,” Cano said, with his unwavering, trademark enthusiasm. “The cause is to beat cancer, and I truly, truly believe we can. It will take more money, more research, more brains, more equipment. But when you attack cancer worldwide with good planning, it can be beaten. I’m very proud of the successes at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, but we’re just halfway there.”