Julia Felts, Author at NFCR

Julia Felts

Q&A with Play4TheCure Coach Kim Looney

Play4TheCure Valley Christian High School Girl's Soccer TeamPlay4TheCure is the sport fundraising program of the National Foundation for Cancer Research. Play4TheCure inspires young athletes and their teams to leverage their passion for sports to “Play4” loved ones affected by cancer and encourages them to actively participate in working to fund cancer research to make a difference. Through Play4TheCure, each team is allowed to choose how they fundraise and what type of cancer research they would like to support, with 100% of the proceeds benefiting NFCR-supported scientists.

Kim Looney is the Head Girls’ Soccer Coach at Valley Christian High School in Cerritos, CA. Her team started hosting a “Kick it to Cancer” game in 2010 and they haven’t looked back since. Over the past 5 years alone they have raised nearly $25,000. We chatted with Coach Looney to get her insight on why she got started with Play4TheCure, how it impacts their community, and what makes it a success.

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Triple Negative Breast Cancer – What Every Patient Should Know

breast cancer ribbonA diagnosis of triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) can strike fear in the hearts of a patient and his or her family since such breast cancers tend to be both more aggressive and more difficult to treat than hormone-positive breast cancers.   

Nearly 15-20% of breast cancers are so-called “triple negative,” meaning such cancers have tested negative in pathology reports for estrogen receptors, progesterone receptors, and Her2/Neu.   The growth of these cancers are not fueled by estrogen and progesterone, as are most cancers, and therefore, do not respond to hormonal therapies such as Tamoxifen, Arimidex, Aromasin, Femara or Aromasin.  Further, such cancers do not respond to therapies that target HER2 receptors, such as Herceptin or Tykerb, rendering them more difficult to treat.   As a result, treatment for TNBC typically involves a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation.

Most studies have shown that TNBC is both more likely to metastasize and recur (in the early years) than hormone-positive breast cancers.   A 2007 study of 1,600 Canadian women found that TNBC patients were at much higher risk of reoccurrence outside of the breast area within the first 3-5 years post-diagnosis. Another 2007 study of more than 50,000 with all forms of breast cancer found 77 percent of women with TNBC survived 5 years, whereas 93 percent of women with other forms of cancer survived the same duration  Over the longer term, the TNBC relapse rate drops below that of hormone-positive breast cancers.   These conclusions have been supported by several studies, but also opposed by a smaller, 300-patent study.

TNBCs also tend to be higher “grade” than other types of breast cancer.  The grade measures how closely a cancer cell resembles a normal, healthy breast cell in terms of size, shape, and growth pattern/activity.   Most TNBCs are labeled Grade 3, the highest on the scale.

Younger African American and Hispanic women are at higher risk of TNBC than their Caucasian peers.  Furthermore, a 2009 study found that women who used oral contraceptives for more than one year were significantly more likely to develop TNBC than those that did not.

TNBC has become a core focus of the cancer research community.   Current research is focused on Angiogenesis and EGFR (HER-1) inhibitors, PARP inhibitors (which showed initial promise, but now, mixed results), and Glembatumumab vedotin (CDX-011).   Research in new target areas and new treatment options are being funded by the National Foundation for Cancer Research (NFCR).

NFCR-funded scientist Dr. Susan Horwitz, of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, has been instrumental in the development of a successful class of anti-cancer drugs called Microtubule-Stabilizing Agents (MSAs) – a class that includes Taxol®.   MSAs work by binding microtubules, filamentous intracellular structures involved in cell and nucleic division and intracellular transport, promoting their polymerization, blocking mitosis (cell division/replication), and causing cell death.  According to Dr. Sujuan Ba, “NFCR is now funding a collaborative effort between Dr. Horwitz and Dr. Amos B. Smith, III, to develop another MSA agent designed to overcome the drug resistance triple-negative breast cancers exhibit to Taxol while limiting toxicity.”

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Corners for Cancer; A Legacy of Giving

When Maura Greenwood, a former field hockey player at Upper Dublin High School, shared the news that her mother had been diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer, she turned to her coach, Heather Boyer for support. That is the moment that Boyer sprang into action.  

“We can be doing a lot more than we are right now,” Boyer said of her team’s previous philanthropic endeavors of giving back to cancer research. Looking at the numbers, Boyer realized that if every member of her team raised just $100 together they would be able to contribute $3,500 back to cancer research, a significant contribution to the cause. Despite the fact that a large majority of the current Upper Dublin Field Hockey team roster had never played with Maura they all rose to the occasion to smash their original fundraising goal and raised over $7,000—setting the tone for a tradition heading into its ninth year.

In the early years of the event Mary Kay Greenwood, the mother of Maura, came and spoke at the games. Giving her the chance to thank everyone in the community for being involved and also to stress the importance of supporting cancer research. The team would also include an In Memory of or In Honor of page in their game program to acknowledge Mary Kay and everyone else in their community facing cancer. Mary Kay Greenwood has since passed, but her legacy and Upper Dublin’s Corners for Cancer still lives on.

Today, Corners for Cancer supports all types of cancer research, giving everyone on the team the chance to raise awareness for the cancer type that has affected them. To show this in 2016, each class wore a different color shirt: seniors wearing teal for ovarian cancer, the juniors in pink for breast cancer, the sophomores in white for lung cancer, the freshmen in periwinkle for stomach and esophageal cancers, and the coaches wearing gray for brain cancers.

How does the team raise so much money? Over the past five years alone, they have raised more than $27,000 to be donated to ALL types of cancer research in the efforts to find a cure for cancer. According to Boyer, “Last year’s senior were the first class to fundraise more than $10,000, so now this year’s seniors want to beat that.” Their success is the culmination of several initiatives throughout the season, many of which the senior class takes the lead on. For example, the team will host a coin drop at football games, allow teachers to donate to wear jeans for a day, sell t-shirts, and hold restaurant nights at which they receive a portion of the proceeds back from. Another large component of their fundraising is soliciting local businesses for support whether it be a cash donation or a physical item they can use for their game day raffle. New this year, the team will host a donation based car wash.

Because Corners for Cancer is such a long standing tradition in Upper Dublin, PA the Field Hockey team boasts the support of their administration to help spread the word to the local media throughout the district. As of last year, the senior class’ participation in planning and fundraising for Play4TheCure satisfied a graduation requirement serving as their culminating project in community service.

When it comes to game day, Boyer describes the atmosphere as powerful and inspiring. “As a coach you obviously want the team to go out there and play every game like it’s the last you might ever play.” But Corners for Cancer day puts things in a different perspective for the team, it reminds them “there are bigger battles in the grand scheme of life.” Year after year, Boyer and her team participate in Play4TheCure because “there’s always someone battling and supporting NFCR gives us the chance to help fund all different types of cancer, especially the rare ones that are less advocated for.”

This year’s Corners for Cancer event hosted by the Upper Dublin High School Field Hockey team will be on October 14th, 2017. You can support their efforts here: https://www.crowdrise.com/upper-dublin-field-hockey-corners-for-cancer1.

About Play4TheCure

Play4TheCure inspires young athletes and their teams to leverage their passion for sports to “Play4” loved ones affected by cancer and encourages them to actively participate in working to fund cancer research to make a difference. To learn more or dedicate your own game to Play4TheCure, click here.

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Playing 4 Trey

In 2014, a few short weeks after celebrating his 3rd birthday, Trey Fry was diagnosed with leukemia. Needless to say, this was a life-altering event for Trey and his family.

Like so many, Trey fought his way through several rounds of chemotherapy. His cancer even relapsed and Trey required a bone marrow transplant. Trey’s seven-year-old brother, was his donor. One year after his initial diagnosis, Trey was in remission and remains so today. 

Prior to his diagnosis, Trey was often found visiting and cheering on the York College Girls Field Hockey Team coached by his aunt Carly Zinn. To honor his recovery and raise awareness for childhood leukemia, the team rallied together to dedicate one special game to Trey.  

What began as a rally behind a young supporter’s fight against leukemia has become a yearly tradition. Each September, Zinn holds an #ORANGEOUT in honor of leukemia and children’s cancer awareness.

A New Tradition

Zinn now coaches at Dickinson College and has brought Trey and his fight with her. Even though the team at Dickinson wasn’t around to see Trey’s battle, they’re more than willing to support this courageous six-year-old.

As part of the tradition, Zinn’s team watches Trey’s story on a DVD. “It’s pretty intense and kind of a reality check” says Zinn.

To honor everyone they know that has been affected by cancer, Zinn asks the girls to fill out an ‘I Play 4’ sign. She says “It gives them extra motivation to play in that game.”

The team hangs their signs on the wall before being lead on to the field by their honorary captain for the day, which is Trey of course. As part of the team huddle, Trey can’t help but share the story about the goal he made in soccer that very morning. “Trey loves it and it’s great to see the girls with him, they have so much energy,” Zinn shares.

This boost in motivation and determination has translated to athletic success for these teams. According to Zinn, they always play extraordinarily well on Play4Trey day, so well in fact that one year when they held a goal pledge drive to raise money, the team scored 8 goals and now allow supporters to put caps on their pledges.

At this year’s game the team has a new goal in mind: get the community more involved. Outside of the t-shirt sales they usually do to raise money for leukemia research, the Dickinson Field Hockey team will provide a donation-based clinic open to the public immediately following their Play4Trey game.

The Impact

Over the past two years, Zinn and her teams at both York College and Dickinson College have raised nearly $5,000 to support leukemia research through NFCR’s Play4TheCure program. Along with donating the money they raise to cancer research, Zinn’s team collects and delivers toys to the patients at the Four Diamonds Hospital in Hershey, PA where her nephew Trey was treated for cancer.

To support the Dickinson Field Hockey team as they Play4Trey on September 30th in Carlisle, PA, visit https://www.crowdrise.com/play-for-trey.

About Play4TheCure

Play4TheCure inspires young athletes and their teams to leverage their passion for sports to “Play4” loved ones affected by cancer and encourages them to actively participate in working to fund cancer research to make a difference. To learn more or dedicate your own game to Play4TheCure, click here.

The roster includes: Alex Lovett, Felicia Remulla, Holly Stafford, Alyssa d’Artenay, Mackenzie Jones, Clarissa Caposino, Vanesa Morales, Ashley Brown, Valerie Romero, Chase Martinez, Hannah Martell, Kiesha Ramos, and Taityanna Santiago. Coaches include Staci Mosher, Gabrielle Brixey and Cady Brazelton. Special thanks to WHCC PTK and Sports Medicine Team.

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