The Focused Ultrasound Foundation lost one of its most dedicated and passionate supporters in January 2013 when Cornelia Keller died from the consequences of a decades-long battle with multiple brain and spinal cord tumors. Widely recognized as a human rights activist, philanthropist, conservationist, historic preservationist, loving mother and devoted friend, Neil was also the founding donor of the Foundation’s Brain Program. Her particular interest was in developing focused ultrasound as a noninvasive treatment for brain tumors.
“Neil Keller was the most inspirational patient I have had the privilege of being involved with during my career,” said Neal F. Kassell, MD, chairman of the Focused Ultrasound Foundation. “Despite progressive disability that left her wheelchair-bound and multiple brain tumor treatments that involved surgery and radiation therapy sessions almost too numerous to count, Neil was always upbeat and optimistic. She exhibited an extraordinary wit and sense of humor, remained fully interested in the world around her and was always engaged with family and friends. There was something mischievous and leprechaun-like about her. Each encounter with her was a joy and a privilege.”
Neil never complained, except about the slowness of progress in developing focused ultrasound treatments and to express her frustration that she could not be used as an experimental subject. While hoping that focused ultrasound would someday be available to help her condition, she was more concerned about making treatments available to others with brain tumors and with neurological conditions such as epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease. Although Neil’s wish for treatment with focused ultrasound was not granted in life, her request to use her body for focused ultrasound research was honored.
“I know my sister would be pleased that she was able to be an important part of advancing research that will help other people,” reflected Cynthia Davis. “She was a visionary leader in so many ways, and I am optimistic that focused ultrasound will be one of her grea, most long lasting legacies.”