Women helping women: Recognizing the generosity of the Lyceum of Greek Women of Montreal

On October 17th, over 100 guests gathered in the Elspeth McConnell Atrium at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC) to celebrate the generosity of the Lyceum of Greek Women of Montreal. Donors to the MUHC Foundation since 2019, the community group are strong supporters of women’s health, championing the work of gynecologic oncologist Dr. Lucy Gilbert, whose first-of-its-kind DOvEEgene test can detect ovarian and endometrial cancers early.

The touching event, hosted by the MUHC Foundation, honoured the Lyceum of Greek Women of Montreal by unveiling a plaque to name a room in the MUHC’s surgical oncology unit. To recognize the strength of Greek women in their community and around the world, the Lyceum chose to adorn the plaque with the words “Melina’s Room.” This tribute recognizes two strong Greek women. Melina Mercouri (1920–1994) was the Minister of Culture and Sport of Greece and widely-revered actress who lost her life to lung cancer. Closer to home, Melina Tsagaropoulos, a member of the Lyceum of Greek Women of Montreal, is a young mother who is fighting ovarian cancer and receiving treatment at the MUHC. This gesture is a testament to the Lyceum of Greek Women of Montreal’s passion for supporting women.

“We are very emotional because today is about women helping women. When women go through treatment and surgeries in the oncology department, they will see this plaque and know that we are there for them, in the name of the Melinas,” says Justine Frangouli-Argyris, President of the Lyceum of Greek Women of Montreal.

The event was attended by Lyceum members, Greek dignitaries including the Honorable Annie Koutrakis, MP and Parliamentary Secretary, the Honorable Emmanuella Lambropoulos, MP and Katerina Varvarigou, Consul General of Greece to Montreal, MUHC and MUHC Foundation staff and the DOvEE team. Speeches were given by Ms. Varvarigou, MUHC Foundation President and CEO Marie-Hélène Laramée, Justine Frangouli-Argyris and Dr. Gilbert, who further inspired attendees with the promise of the DOvEEgene test.

“We are deeply, deeply grateful, on behalf of the women whose lives you will save. Cancer is so scary, but it is scary only after it spreads. If you catch it when it’s very small, it’s not scary. That is what DOvEEgene will do,” says Dr. Gilbert.

DOvEEgene is a pap smear-like test that uses a specially designed brush to collect cells from the uterus. The sample undergoes genetic testing, allowing the DOvEE team to detect the presence of ovarian cancer in its earliest stages. Finding the cancer early is critically important because once it has spread, it is essentially a death sentence. Worse, ovarian and endometrial cancers do not present symptoms until they are advanced, meaning the majority of women who develop the disease die from it.

“I cannot put into words how much this effort by the Lyceum of Greek Women and their supporters means to the DOvEE Project. It not only gives us the funds that we need to work, but the inspiration and the feeling that we are supported by women, to help women. It means so much to us,” says Dr. Gilbert.

The DOvEEgene test must go through several important steps before it can be made available to women across Canada and around the world. It is currently undergoing its final clinical trial to test its effectiveness. Over 4,000 women have been tested as part of the trial, and the Greek community is proud that over 1,000 of its members have participated. Already, the test is saving lives—it has helped Dr. Gilbert and her team identify cancer and pre-cancer in numerous trial participants. With the generous and ongoing support of the Lyceum of Greek Women of Montreal, Dr. Gilbert and her team will continue on the path to making the DOvEEgene test a standard part of women’s health care.

Want to get involved? Learn more and donate to the DOvEE Project at https://muhcfoundation.com/works/stop-ovarian-cancer

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