Bowlers strike out cancer in St. Albert

On Sunday, March 23, I had the privilege of attending the 6th Annual Strikes for Cancer event held at the St. Albert Bowling Centre. This marks the first year that this spectacular event decided to support the Alberta Cancer Foundation, raising funds for research at the Cross Cancer Institute.

The idea for this event was triggered back in 2009 by a six year old bowler named Jaden. With a great deal of persistence and effort, and the St. Albert Bowling Centre on board, Jaden was able to host their first annual event in May of 2009. The event continued to grow year after year, and this year was certainly no exception.

On the day of the event, I was able to bowl alongside Jaden. He shared his bowling expertise with me offering tips and suggestions to improve my game. The event consisted of many returning bowlers as well as first time bowlers, and I was also able to connect with several of the participants to hear about what brought them to the 6th Annual Strikes for Cancer. Though everyone had different paths that led them to this event, they all had one shared goal, Jaden’s vision to strikeout cancer. 

~By Stephanie Rudanec, Alberta Cancer Foundation Development Assistant

Teaming up against skin cancer

 “It’s the best way to spend the worst day of the year.”

For the friends and family of University of Alberta student and elite athlete Owen Schlosser, June 2nd is a day of mixed emotions. It marks the day Owen was lost to melanoma, a mere four months after becoming one of the 43 Albertans who hear the words “you have cancer” every day. That’s why around June 2nd each year, hundreds of people come together for Win4Skin, the ultimate 3-on-3 street hockey tournament. Win4Skin raises funds for the Alberta Cancer Foundation in support of the Cross Cancer Institute’s Mary Johnston Chair in Melanoma Research and the Owen Schlosser Endowment Fund through the Edmonton Community Foundation to support underprivileged athletes. Though participants have a lot of fun and take pride in the success of Win4Skin’s fundraising efforts, the event’s other purpose is to pay tribute to the incredible life of Owen Schlosser.

University of Alberta medical student David Chapman will never forget the day his close friend Owen revealed the news of his diagnosis.

“He sent us a message saying that he didn’t want to be a buzz kill, but he was told he had skin cancer. He mentioned that he didn’t know much about it, but he would be set up at the Cross for a little bit,” remembers David.

David and the rest of Owen’s friends were obviously concerned but skin cancer seemed to be a minor obstacle that Owen could overcome. After all, Owen ate healthy, played multiple sports at a competitive level and had the most positive attitude out of anyone they had ever met. 

Owen started to experience symptoms immediately following his diagnosis. His doctors soon confirmed that the cancer had spread, indicating a diagnosis of stage four melanoma with few conventional therapy options available. After an unsuccessful experimental trial in Florida, Owen returned home to be with his family. He eventually went to the Cross Cancer Institute in Edmonton where he passed away.

The following September, David got to work. He had an idea for an event that would give something positive for people to look forward to each year around the time of Owen’s passing.

“I was trying to find a way to deal with it I guess. Some sort of distraction for us.”

Without any event planning background, David sought out the help of his friends, family and University Rotaract club. The event, named Win4Skin, would encompass a 3-on-3 street hockey tournament and pay homage to Owen’s athleticism and community spirit by fundraising for the Mary Johnston Chair in Melanoma Research and the Owen Schlosser Endowment Fund for Underprivileged Athletes.

“The Alberta Cancer Foundation’s connection to the Cross Cancer Institute and the melanoma research chair made the most sense, given that Owen was treated there. I found the Foundation to be so positive and helpful especially with the infrastructure to support the registration and donation collection process,” says David.

Win4Skin achieved an important milestone last year, raising a phenomenal $250,000 for the two charities and has now set a new goal of reaching $500,000 over the next few years. Now in its fifth year, David is still the lead Win4Skin organizer despite his busy medical school schedule.

“Friends and family are a resource I’ve heavily relied on to grow the event and build momentum. It just all comes together because the committee (Sue Trigg, Ron Johnston, Mark Boulter, Laura Chapman, Sarah Ramsay, Alain Chicoine, Tommy Fleming, Jessica Romaniuk, and, of course, the Burnett/Schlosser and Johnston families) and I are passionate about it. I guess the key is to organize something you are passionate about because it makes all of the hard work worth it.”

Through Win4Skin, David had the privilege of connecting with Ron Johnston, son of the late Mary Johnston who championed skin cancer prevention and research for many years before she was lost to cancer in 2004. After calling David in 2010 to thank Win4Skin for their generous contribution to the Mary Johnston Chair in Melanoma Research, currently held by Dr. Alan Underhill at the Cross Cancer Institute, Ron offered to take an active role in the Win4Skin committee, helping the event to grow ever since.

This year, Win4Skin is expanding to a two-day event on May 30-31, 2014 to allow participants sufficient time to enjoy the popular banquet event on the Friday night and then come prepared for a full day of men’s and women’s street hockey games run simultaneously on Saturday.

“I love the hockey part of it, although my team’s never won! I make sure to stack my team, but we just can’t do it. I think I’ve said this every year, but this year is definitely ours,” says David.

Register your Win4Skin team before April 11th at www.albertacancer.ca/win4skin-2014 because spots are going fast! If you don’t make it on a team, you can still donate, volunteer, attend the banquet or source silent auction items. Every little bit helps Win4Skin to continue redefining the future for Albertans and their families facing skin cancer.

~By Ashton Paulitsch, Alberta Cancer Foundation Communications & Marketing Associate

My First Bust a Move: Charlotte Chan

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I don’t know about you, but the Alberta Cancer Foundation’s Bust a Move for Breast Health was certainly one of my highlights so far this year, from the awesome music and black lights to the BaMtastic participants!

During my past couple months working towards Bust a Move 2014, I always found it ironic how I was supposedly helping participants answer questions and understand how the event runs, without actually having been to it before.

Brooke, our Chief Bust a Mover, had been telling me with much enthusiasm about the event and what goes on that weekend. I thought I knew what to expect after 3 months, but I was basically speechless when it first started and I don’t think words can fully capture what goes on at Bust a Move.

The experience started for me during set up when our volunteer co-chairs and awesome volunteers were busy BaMifying the Northlands Expo Centre. They all had such positive attitudes and were excited to be part of the event. Everyone was motivated to help out wherever possible and took the time to foster new friendships as well.

I would have to say one of my favorite parts was simply meeting the enthusiastic participants that I had been in touch with these past few months. It was so nice to put a face to all the conversations and see their excitement for the event—they were so friendly and ready to party, and made me even more pumped for event day!

On Saturday March 22nd, I was filled with so many emotions from seeing the well-choreographed flash mob, hearing the moving survivor stories, experiencing our participants giving 100% in each session and finally dancing my last hour away at the black light party. It was through these moments that I truly understood why everyone in the room was so dedicated to promising progress for our mothers, daughters, sisters and friends across the province.   

Thank you to our participants, sponsors, volunteers and donors for making the event so fun and such a huge success. I was inspired by everyone gave their everything to raise $400,000 for breast health projects at the Cross Cancer Institute and created awareness for a cause so dear to everyone’s hearts.  

~By Guest Blogger & Deputy Chief Bust a Mover Charlotte Chan

News Release: Pilot lung cancer screening program receives funding from Transformative Program competition

March 13, 2014 - The Alberta Cancer Foundation has invested more than $7 million into four new research programs across the province, all designed to transform patient care and impact outcomes here in Alberta.

“Every day 43 Albertans hear the words you have cancer,” says Myka Osinchuk, CEO of the Alberta Cancer Foundation. “One way we can propel discovery and make a difference for those 43 people is by creating an environment for collaboration—bringing science, patients and care together in a new and innovative way. That’s what these investments will do.”

The Alberta Cancer Foundation’s new investment model means every decision is focused on improving patient outcomes. This new “transformative program” investment is the first step in a long-term vision that will accelerate discovery and translate scientific research into practice.

Dr. Alain Tremblay, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Calgary and a member of the Snyder Institute for Chronic Diseases and the Southern Alberta Cancer Research Institute (SACRI), is one of four successful researchers to receive funding from the Transformative Program competition, which originally received applications from 56 research teams in Alberta. Twelve teams were invited to present their proposals in front of a high-calibre review panel made up of national cancer researchers, informed patients and stakeholders from the business community and health system. The Alberta Cancer Foundation will invest $2.3 million over the next five years into Dr. Tremblay’s program.

Tremblay and his team will use the Alberta Cancer Foundation investment to establish a three year pilot lung cancer screening program, with the goal of eventually reducing lung cancer deaths in Alberta. Lung cancer causes more cancer deaths than breast, colon and prostate cancer combined. The research program will screen 800 Albertans for lung cancer over three years to determine how effective the screening method is and which patients can benefit the most. Additionally, 200 Albertans who have previously participated in a national lung cancer screening pilot program will be screened again to determine how often patients need to be screened. At the end of the three year project, Dr. Tremblay and his team hope to be in a position to start a full province- wide screening program.

“The high number of lung cancer related deaths is in part due to the lack of screening tools available.” Tremblay says. “Most patients present with very advanced forms of lung cancer that cannot easily be cured. A lung cancer screening program could save lives by allowing earlier detection and treatment.”

People interested in participating in the screening study can contact lung.screening@ucalgary.ca.

For more information on the Transformative Program investments, visit: Alberta Cancer Foundation investments

For more information, please contact:
Phoebe Dey, Director, Communications, Alberta Cancer Foundation
(780)700-6120 or phoebe.dey@albertacancer.ca

News Release: Alberta Cancer Foundation announces $7 million for transformative research across province

March 13, 2014 - The Alberta Cancer Foundation has invested more than $7 million into four new research programs across the province, all designed to transform patient care and impact outcomes here in Alberta.

“Every day 43 Albertans hear the words you have cancer,” says Myka Osinchuk, CEO of the Alberta Cancer Foundation. “One way we can propel discovery and make a difference for those 43 people is by creating an environment for collaboration—bringing science, patients and care together in a new and innovative way. That’s what these investments will do.”

The Alberta Cancer Foundation’s new investment model means every decision is focused on improving patient outcomes. This new “transformative program” funding is the first step in a long-term vision that will accelerate discovery and translate scientific research into practice. It is also part of the Alberta Cancer Foundation’s commitment to invest $120 million to cancer research, treatment and care by 2017.

Dr. Jana Rieger, a University of Alberta scientist and research director at the Institute for Reconstructive Sciences in Medicine (iRSM), is one of four successful researchers to receive funding from the Transformative Program competition, which originally received applications from 56 research teams in Alberta. Twelve teams were invited to present their proposals in front of a a high-calibre review panel made up of national cancer researchers, informed patients and stakeholders from the business community. Rieger will receive $1.9 million over the next five years for her project.

Rieger, a speech language pathologist with the U of A’s Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine, works with head and neck cancer patients at Misericordia Hospital’s iRSM to improve their quality of life. After life-saving treatment, patients require reconstructive surgery to restore their appearance and the essential functions that most of us consider natural—the ability to speak, to chew well enough to eat and swallow their food. Swallowing impairments often lead to nutritional deficiencies or tube-feeding dependencies and rehab for these patients can include countless hours and trips to clinics for assessments.

Dr. Rieger and her team will use the Alberta Cancer Foundation investments to test a technology that can be used remotely and comfortably in a patient’s home. An adhesive sensor is applied under the jaw and the technology sends patient data to health-care professionals, anywhere in the province. This will allow patients to be more independent during and after treatment, while still receiving the care they need.  

“It’s an important conversation about whether we’ve done enough for the survivors of head and neck defects and the medical community has really embraced the new mission of doing more,” Rieger says. “Of course the first focus will always be a cure. But now we all understand that’s just the start. After their treatment, after they survive, we must do our best to give patients back as much of their lives as possible.”

For more information on the Transformative Program investments, visit: Alberta Cancer Foundation Investments.

For more information, please contact:
Phoebe Dey, Director, Communications, Alberta Cancer Foundation
(780)700-6120 or phoebe.dey@albertacancer.ca