News Release

Tennis greats Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova honored at A Conversation With a Living Legend®

Conversation with Robin Roberts raises more than $1.5 million for cancer research

Grant and Award Announcement

University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center

Speakers at A Conversation With a Living Legend


Robin Roberts, Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova onstage at A Conversation With a Living Legend on May 1, 2024.

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Credit: MD Anderson Cancer Center

HOUSTON ― Cancer survivors and tennis legends Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova participated in a fireside-style chat on Wednesday, May 1, at The University of Texas
MD Anderson Cancer Center’s
signature event, A Conversation with a Living Legend ®, hosted at the Post Oak Hotel at Uptown Houston. The sold-out event raised more than $1.5 million for cell therapy research at MD Anderson with a ticketed audience of 800+.

Past Living Legend honoree and co-anchor of ABC’s Good Morning America, Robin Roberts, led the onstage interview with Evert and Navratilova, and ABC13 Houston’s Eyewitness News anchor, Gina Gaston, emceed the event.

The evening honored Evert’s and Navratilova’s legacies of resilience and determination both on and off the court. The tennis legends shared how their fierce athletic rivalry led to a close friendship they’ve sustained beyond their careers and during each other’s subsequent cancer diagnoses.

This year’s event chairs included Margot Athon, Kelli Blanton, Maya Fleyhan, Vanessa Gilmore, Amy Lee, Ashley Loeffler, Sonny Messiah-Jiles and Delia Stroud. Honorary chairs included Patsy Fourticq, Joan Schnitzer, Cyvia Wolff and Barbara Hurwitz.

From rivals to friends
Evert and Navratilova entertained the audience with personal anecdotes of their friendship, bringing the audience to tears one moment and laughter the next. The women candidly recalled fond memories of traveling around the world playing tennis together, vacationing in Aspen and supporting one another through their cancer experiences.

Navratilova proudly noted that she was wearing a necklace Evert had given her — and that she would continue wearing it in support of Evert, whose ovarian cancer relapsed in 2023, until she was fully healthy again. Evert said she is slowly but surely regaining her strength, having completed treatment and now undergoing maintenance therapy.

Navratilova encouraged audience members to get mammograms and Evert emphasized how genetic testing for BRCA mutations saved her life. Both women noted the importance of getting second opinions when presented with a cancer diagnosis.

“I’m so proud of what you both did for women in sports, but also with how you have handled everything with such grace,” Roberts said at the end of the interview. “The fact that you used your platform to bring about change — to fill this room and raise money [for cancer research] — says a lot about your character.”

Funds raised to support MD Anderson’s cell therapy research
Funds from A Conversation with a Living Legend® Houston benefit cell therapy research and innovation at MD Anderson. This work is led by Katy Rezvani, M.D., Ph.D., professor of Stem Cell Transplantation and the Sally Cooper Murray Chair in Cancer Research, and Elizabeth Shpall, M.D., professor of Stem Cell Transplantation.

Cell therapies incorporate immune cells from a patient or donor that have been engineered or enhanced so that a patient’s immune system can better detect and eliminate cancer cells. These treatments have brought dramatic results for many patients with blood-based cancers, but not all cancer patients benefit. Leveraging the institution's clinical and research expertise, MD Anderson scientists are developing new cell therapies to overcome current challenges and treat a broader spectrum of cancers, such as breast, lung and pancreatic cancers.

“Much of what the world knows about cancer and cell therapy started right here at
MD Anderson, and we will continue to advance cell therapy research so more patients benefit,” Rezvani said. “We are deeply grateful to the event organizers and attendees for supporting this important, life-saving work. Your generosity is truly making a difference in the lives of our patients.”

A Conversation With a Living Legend ®
Since 1990, thousands of donors across the country have joined in support of A Conversation With a Living Legend®. Its live interview concept has honored celebrities, heads of state, sports icons and other legendary figures, while audiences in Atlanta; Dallas/Fort Worth; Houston; Las Vegas; San Antonio; and Washington, D.C., have raised more than $55 million for cancer research and patient care programs to date. Since the first Houston-based event in 2007, the local event series has raised over $14 million.

“The funds raised through this event will have a significant impact on cancer patients and their families in Texas and around the world,” said Peter WT Pisters, M.D., president of
MD Anderson. “As MD Anderson stands at a pivotal moment in its history, making transformative impacts on the future of cancer care and research, our supporters’ incredible commitment to our mission continues to inspire us.”

Read this press release on MD Anderson’s Philanthropy Newsroom.

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