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A Night of Champions: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar to Host illumination10

May 9, 2010

On May 15, hundreds of generous St. Louisans will “get their heads in the game” by joining host Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the Barnes-Jewish Hospital Foundation’s illumination10 gala to benefit the Alvin J. Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine.

 

Since 1999, illumination has generated net funds of more than $5.5 million to support the Siteman Cancer Center — the only National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center within 240 miles of St. Louis — in the fight against cancer. Proceeds increased dramatically over the last three years as the gala shifted focus to funding specific innovation opportunities like the Koman Center for Cancer Bioinformatics, and proton beam research through the S. Lee Kling Endowed Chair in Radiation Oncology. The 2009 event alone netted more than $1.4 million to launch the Barnes-Jewish Hospital Foundation’s Cancer Frontier Fund, a 10-year, $50 million research initiative spearheaded by Bill and Amy Koman in partnership with the hospital.

 

“Our team is every person in St. Louis who wants to beat cancer,” says Julia  Ruvelson, vice president of the Barnes-Jewish Hospital Foundation. “Our heroes are the people and patients of the Siteman Cancer Center. Our game plan is to accelerate breakthroughs by raising millions of dollars for the Cancer Frontier Fund!

 

Every dollar raised through illumination10 will permit the Cancer Frontier Fund to support innovative research at the Siteman Cancer Center, enabling physicians to treat cancer more effectively by personalizing a patient’s therapy based on the genetics or molecular makeup of his or her cancer. 

 

Research that helped uncover and understand the genetic changes that cause chronic myeloid leukemia is a major factor in how Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is successfully living with the disease. He announced his diagnosis in November 2009. Today, the NBA’s all-time leading scorer and the person named by TIME magazine as “History’s Greatest Player” serves as special assistant coach of the Los Angeles Lakers. He also pursues his love of history as the author of six best-selling books on historical subjects. When Abdul-Jabbar is not writing and speaking around the world, he is helping numerous charities — especially those devoted to beating cancer.

 

"My grandfather died from colorectal cancer, my uncle died from colorectal cancer and my father almost died from colorectal cancer," Abdul-Jabbar told CNN in November. “I think it's possible for someone in my position to help save lives."

 

“Kareem Abdul-Jabbar puts a very public face on how innovative research can help people continue to live with energy and passion, despite a cancer diagnosis,” Ruvelson says. “We are thrilled that he will join with us on May 15 to score game-winning shots against cancer by giving to the Cancer Frontier Fund to accelerate cancer breakthroughs.” 

 

 

What Have Past illumination Gifts Accomplished?

 

illumination09: Launched the Cancer Frontier Fund.  See page 15 to learn about the first grants awarded from the fund in 2010.

 

illumination08: Helped to establish the S. Lee Kling Endowed Chair in Radiation Oncology to perpetually fund research in the Kling Center for Proton Therapy at the Siteman Cancer Center. Chairholder Jeff Bradley, MD, anticipates the Kling Center will open in late 2010 or early 2011 as the first single-vault proton therapy center in the country. 

 

Proton radiotherapy allows physicians to target cancer cells with greater precision so they can increase radiation with minimal damage to healthy tissue. For the first time, patients will be able to remain in St. Louis for proton therapy and to benefit from its research applications. These include patients with highly challenging cancers of the brain, eye or spinal column; breast, lung or prostate cancer patients for whom conventional treatments have been exhausted; and children.

 

illumination07: Advanced two exciting areas of research. One project, led by Graham Colditz, MD, DrPH, of the Siteman Cancer Center, is working to adapt the Your Disease Risk Web site (www.yourdiseaserisk.org) to the primary care setting as a tool to help patients identify lifestyle changes that can reduce their risk of chronic diseases, including breast cancer. 

 

Other projects, led by researchers under John DiPersio, MD, PhD, and the Koman Center for Cancer Bioinformatics, are linking genetic data, predictive data and demographic data to identify genetic mutations and biomarkers (biological indicators that predict how a patient will benefit from a treatment) that can be used to develop novel cancer therapies.  In some cases, the research data is leading to new clinical trials.  Cancers being explored include Hodgkin lymphoma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma, acute myeloid leukemia and multiple myeloma.

 

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