Elizabeth Comper’s legacy will fund the development of new treatments for rare blood disorders

Dr. Vikas Gupta and Tony Comper

Elizabeth Comper lived her life with the confidence that she could make a difference. Her obituary read “As a teacher and mature student, Elizabeth knew the best way to change the future was by educating young people today.”

When she watched the news in 2004 reporting on the firebombing of the library of Montreal’s United Talmud Torah Jewish day school, she knew that she had to act.  After discussing ideas with her husband, Elizabeth and Tony launched Fighting Antisemitism Together (FAST)—an educational curriculum that has been distributed to teachers of more than two million students in grades 6, 7 and 8 at 19,000 schools across Canada. Their crusade against anti-semitism continues to make a huge impact in Canada and beyond.

Elizabeth directed her energy to a wide range of issues needing her support, including geriatric facilities for the Chinese community and services for single mothers in the First Nations community. 

Elizabeth and Tony Comper were made Members of the Order of Canada for their commitment to the community at large as active volunteers and philanthropists—only the third couple to receive the distinction since the award’s founding in 1967.

In 2012, Elizabeth was diagnosed with myelofibrosis, a rare blood disorder that alters the ability of the bone marrow to produce normal blood cells.  Myelofibrosis belongs to a group of blood disorders referred to collectively as Myeloproliferative Neoplasms (MPNs).  All of these disorders can transform to aggressive forms of leukemia, and this is what happened to Elizabeth.

Before Elizabeth died in June 2014, she and Tony decided to make a gift of $2.4 million to establish the Elizabeth and Tony Comper MPN Program at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre where she was treated. 

“MPNs are rare disorders and, as a result, there are very few programs dedicated to their study around the world,” explains Dr. Vikas Gupta, Elizabeth’s physician and a researcher who has gained international recognition for his ground-breaking work on myelofibrosis.  “Thanks to Elizabeth and Tony Comper, this will be the first such program in Canada with a mission to advance basic and clinical research leading to improved outcomes for patients with these disorders.”

There are three classical Myeloproliferative Neoplasms (MPNs): 
  • polycythemia vera (PV)
  • essential thrombocythemia (ET) 
  • myelofibrosis
Myelofibrosis is the rarest and severest of the MPNs.
It is estimated that there are 1500 to 1700 patients affected with myelofibrosis in Canada. 

Read Michael Brady's story - a patient of Dr. Vikas Gupta