Neighborly Commitment

CancerCure, CU Cancer Center
Cancer survivors, neighbors “allow great research to happen” for 16 years

Midge Wallace, Carolyn Fancher and Nina Ahbe are more than friends and neighbors. They’re also breast cancer survivors committed to funding cancer research and spurring others to do the same.

Affected by breast cancer in the 1990’s, Midge and Carolyn know firsthand the impact the disease has on patients and families. In 1996, not wanting their children or grandchildren to have to go through the same experience, Midge and Carolyn founded CancerCure, a membership group for donors interested in supporting cancer research at University of Colorado Cancer Center.

“Our mission is really to spread the word about the CU Cancer Center, what a National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center is, and how important it is to have this high level care and research here in Colorado,” Midge says.

When they founded CancerCure, Midge was only interested in funding breast cancer research; however, she quickly learned that a rising tide floats all boats—discoveries in one cancer are frequently relevant to others.

“At first I only wanted to focus on breast cancer since my mother, sister and I have had the disease,” says Midge. “After meeting and spending time with researchers, I realized there are so many crossovers to multiple cancers.”

Another Survivor

Ten years ago, Nina Ahbe and her family moved to Colorado and bought a house in the same neighborhood as Carolyn and Midge. She was diagnosed with breast cancer shortly after, having not met either of the women.

A fluke phone call from their daughters at Miami University in Ohio brought Carolyn and Nina together. It turned out that both Carolyn’s and Nina’s daughters were starting their freshman year and living in the same dorm. It wasn’t long after that Nina and Carolyn became friends—and Nina became a breast cancer survivor.

After Nina’s treatment was completed she and her husband joined CancerCure. Two years ago, she became CancerCure’s co-chair with Midge.

“When you’ve been touched by cancer, like Midge, Carolyn and I have, you want there to be more research so that new discoveries are made, potentially impacting future generations,” Nina says.

Now 16 years later, Midge, Nina, Carolyn and other CancerCure members have raised nearly $1.5 million through individual gifts. The members have funded seed pilot grants for young researchers, summer student cancer fellowships, critical research equipment and a melanoma research group, among others.

One hundred percent of their funding goes towards cancer research in Colorado and is used at the discretion of the CU Cancer Center director.

Shifting Focus

Last fall, CU Cancer Center Director Dan Theodorescu, MD, PhD, challenged CancerCure to undertake a larger fundraising initiative: establish a premier prevention and control program, headed by an endowed chair—a five-year, $1.5 million commitment.

“This is the first time the director came to us ahead of time,” Midge says. “Dr. Theodorescu felt the endowed chair for cancer prevention and control was one of the Cancer Center’s greatest needs. We decided to accept his request and commit to $750,000 over the next five years.”

AMC Cancer Fund, the CU Cancer Center’s fundraising partner, is collaborating with CancerCure to raise the additional $750,000 needed to fund the CancerCure/AMC Cancer Fund Endowed Chair for Cancer Prevention and Control. In May 2012, Nina and Midge presented an initial $250,000 check to the Cancer Center on behalf of CancerCure.

“AMC Cancer Fund is honored to partner with CancerCure to establish an endowed chair,” says Nancy Stewart, vice president of community relations at AMC Cancer Fund. “Historically, the investigators of what was the AMC Cancer Research Center were at the forefront in this area of cancer research. We believe the endowment is a wonderful way to honor our legacy.”

Because the majority of research funding goes to science aimed at treating cancer rather than preventing it, CancerCure and AMC Cancer Fund will fund projects aimed at reducing cancer incidence, morbidity and mortality, as well as improving the quality of life for cancer patients. These projects will be funded using investment income from the endowed chair.

“In our world today we don’t allow for enough great research to happen,” Midge says. “Because we have an NCI-designated comprehensive cancer center in Colorado, I’m excited to support the research CU Cancer Center does so that we can eradicate cancer from our and our children’s lives.”

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CancerCure welcomes new members throughout the year and hosts two annual events for its general and patron members. General memberships are $100 and patron level memberships are $750 annually. Learn more about membership levels at www.wearecancercure.org or contact Nina Ahbe or Midge Wallace at wearecancercure [at] gmail.com.

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About the author: Kim Chriscaden

Kim Chriscaden is the communications manager for the University of Colorado Cancer Center. Reach her at kimberly.chriscaden [at] ucdenver.edu or 303-724-0114.

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