Giving

News

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Dancing Sparks a Commitment to a Cancer Cure

The McNichol Family, from left to right: Joseph, Nancy, Katie, Patrick, 
Jared Ingersoll, Charlie Ingersoll, and Leigh Ann Ingersoll.
When Patrick McNichol signed up to participate in THON—Penn State’s year-long student run fundraiser that culminates with a forty-eight hour dance marathon in support of pediatric cancer patients, family, research—as a senior, he unwittingly set a course for a life committed to philanthropy.

“I got involved with THON a little late in my college career, and felt that I could have done more,” Patrick said. “The summer after graduation, a few friends and I started a fundraiser down the shore in Avalon, NJ called War on the Shore.”

War on the Shore, which supports The Four Diamonds Fund, just held its 10th annual event—and has successfully raised over $250,000 since 2004.

Capitalizing on their common goal of building a strong philanthropic network in support of cancer research and care the group, consisting of Vice President Erik T. Christian, Secretary James D. Krugh, and Treasurer Corey M. Talone, started the Elpis Foundation. Named after the Greek goddess of hope who was the last deity to be released from Pandora’s Box, Elpis personifies the promise of a world without despair

And that is the Elpis Foundation’s intention: to build a community that inspires hope, raises awareness, and offers unwavering emotional and financial support for cancer research, treatments, and care.

“War on the Shore expanded into other events, golf outings and bowling tournaments that support different cancer research,” Patrick said. “This isn’t our day job—we keep Elpis going in our free time, and are motivated by our shared vision of world without cancer.”

One Father’s Fight Inspires a New Era of Hope

But in September 2011, Patrick’s connection to cancer became deeply personal. His father, Joseph F. McNichol, was diagnosed with Stage IV, non-small cell lung cancer— sadly losing his battle only a year later, in July 2012.

The McNichol Family
 “Lung cancer is incredibly hard to detect and diagnosis often comes too late. It kills more people than breast, prostate, and colon cancers combined yet continues to be one of the lowest funded forms of cancer in terms of research and treatment,” Patrick explained. “There is such a negative stigma as well, that people deserve it, when some of the worst lung cancers are not caused by tobacco use.”

The Elpis Foundation wants to change that – and in February 2013 held its inaugural JFM Memorial Gala to honor his father’s life, the treatment he received at Abramson Cancer Center of the University of Pennsylvania by Charles B. Simone II, MD, and to inspire hope.

The Elpis Foundation pledged $200,000 to the Abramson Cancer Center, establishing the Joseph F. McNichol (JFM) Lung Cancer Research Fund to support the advancement of lung cancer research and awareness through Penn’s Interdisciplinary Thoracic Oncology Program, specifically as it relates to early detection and screening, treatment, and advances in radiation oncology.

Why Penn Medicine

Penn Medicine’s Thoracic Oncology Program is one of the few centers in the world that is able to offer a full spectrum of personalized treatment options that aren’t available everyone else.

“We are at the cutting edge technology for radiation therapy, revolutionary discoveries in the lab, translational research in the clinic, surgical options, and world-class pulmonologists,” says Dr. Simone, Assistant Professor of Radiation Oncology who specializes in lung cancer, mesothelioma, and other thoracic malignancies. “We are uniquely able to handle encompassing expertise across the care modalities.”

Early detection is critical, and to this end, the JFM Fund supports research of circulating tumor cells (CTCs) — the cells shed from primary tumors or their metastases that circulate in the bloodstream. CTCs hold information researchers at the Abramson Cancer Center believe could be a lynchpin to a better understanding of cancer diagnosis, metastases, and recurrence. Unlocking the potential within CTCs opens up the possibility for a “liquid biopsy,” a non-invasive blood test that will provide live information about the patient’s disease status, and a roadmap to personalized targeted cancer therapies.

“Beyond the amazing, compassionate care my father received at the Abramson Cancer Center, the more we learned about the disease during his treatment, the more we knew this was the place for the Elpis Foundation to direct much needed resources to lung cancer research and care,” said Mr. McNichol.

To make a gift to lung cancer research, click here or contact Natalie Reznik at nreznik@exchange.upenn.edu or (215) 746-3009.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Supporting Prostate Cancer Research and Inspiring the Next Generation of Philanthropists

The power and importance of philanthropy is an essential concept to instill in the next generation. As the Vozar family demonstrates, it is often a lesson best passed on from father to son. In May, Jim Vozar and his son, JT, participated in the TD Five Boro Bike Tour—America’s largest cycling event, with over 32,000 riders—to raise support for prostate cancer research at the Abramson Cancer Center.

Jim is the Director of Business Development at ARCO Design/Build, Inc., a national construction company, and JT is entering the 8th grade. Jim had become struck by the prevalence of prostate cancer, which affects 1 in 6 men in America, and the need for research funding. After doing his own research on prostate cancer programs in the region, he was impressed by the Abramson Cancer Center’s reputation for top-notch prostate cancer research and patient care and its focus on research initiatives that can have transformative impacts on prostate cancer treatments.

So, Jim and JT raised support from friends and family and joined a group of like-minded cyclists, making their way through the five boroughs of New York City. Jim and JT not only had a fantastic day together touring New York City by bike, but they raised funds for the important work being done at Penn. And Jim was able to demonstrate to his son the importance of giving back to a worthy cause.

Jim and JT plan to make philanthropy a tradition by participating in the event again next year, continuing their positive impact on prostate cancer research at Penn.

If you are interested in supporting prostate cancer research and clinical care at the Abramson Cancer Center, or if you would like to learn more about the program, please contact Andrew Bellet at 215-573-0548 or abellet@upenn.edu. To make a gift to support prostate cancer research, please visit www.pennmedicine.org/prostatefund.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Sara Gowing: A Partner in Hope Propels Research on Breast Cancer Recurrence

“I think that anyone who has received a cancer diagnosis would agree that it is a moment which is life-altering: emotions range from fear and sadness, to anger and regret, after which you can’t help but see everything in a different light.”

For Sara Gowing, that new light as a breast cancer survivor has been characterized by elation for her cancer remission and good health against the odds of and fear for her cancer returning.

“As my breast cancer treatment came to an end, I learned that palpation would be my primary method for monitoring recurrence,” Sara explained. “I was startled to think that after spending a year undergoing cutting edge treatments that included surgery, rounds of chemotherapy with two different drugs, and radiation, I would be back to relying upon breast exams to catch a recurrence of the cancer.”

Angela DeMichele, MD, MSCE (center) with Sara Gowing and her husband Jim, at the celebration of Dr. DeMichele's appointment as the Alan and Jill Miller Associate Professor in Breast Cancer Excellence.

Seeking an Active Measure for Recurrence in Post-treatment Survivorship

Despite 5-year survival rates approaching 90%, a substantial number of breast cancer patients relapse - and many more experience late treatment effects or are diagnosed with a second cancer. As a consequence, millions of breast cancer survivors find themselves in a post-treatment survivorship period that is largely devoid of active measures that they can take to monitor and prevent recurrence.

Sara asked her oncologist, and co-leader of the Breast Cancer Research Program, Angela DeMichele, MD, MSCE, what she could do to help propel breast cancer recurrence research forward.

“I got to know Dr. DeMichele particularly well during my chemotherapy. She was such a big help and provided so much reassurance during the unknowns surrounding my treatment,” Sara explained.

Forming the 2-PREVENT Translational Center of Excellence

“When I learned that the causes and treatment of recurrence was something that she was hoping to change through research, my husband and I were glad to be able to support this important work.”

The Gowings generously established the Breast Cancer Recurrence Program in support of the 2-PREVENT Translational Centers of Excellence (TCE) at the Abramson Cancer Center, co-led by Dr. DeMichele and Lewis Chodosh, MD, PhD, Professor and Chair of the Department of Cancer Biology, Perelman School of Medicine. Translational Centers of Excellence are virtual centers that bring the most brilliant minds across Penn’s medical campus together, to solve cancer’s most complex challenges.

The 2-PREVENT TCE focuses on the microscopic cells that are left in the body after cancer treatment—rather than the original tumor—and researches how they relate to the original tumor, where they live, how they grow and how they relate to the relapsed tumor. That information is then used to develop clinical trials focused on innovative, targeted therapies.

These cross-disciplinary teams are already making great progress, helping deliver novel, personalized cancer care to cancer patients.

Sara has joined the ranks of the Abramson Cancer Center’s brave patients, advocates, and philanthropists who have formed a community of support in the fight to advance research that offers better options and therapies for women diagnosed with breast cancer.

“I am so pleased to be able to support the amazing work being done at the Abramson Cancer Center and know that we will be able to find a cure for breast cancer. Forever.”

For more information on how to support breast cancer recurrence research please contact Laura Ferraiolo at lferr@exchange.upenn.edu or by phone (215) 746-2948, or make a gift online.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Childhood Cancer Survivor...and Annihilator

Shantae ‘Shani’ Ockimey has always taken on the role of protector. When she came out of the surgery that amputated her right leg after an osteoscarcoma diagnosis at 9, the first thing she asked was, “How is everybody?”

Now a childhood cancer survivor and a patient of The LIVESTRONG™ Survivorship Center of Excellence’s Living Well After Childhood Cancer™ Program (LWAC) at the Abramson Cancer Center—a collaborative effort between Penn Medicine and CHOP that tailors individual health care plans to manage the short and long-term medical and psychosocial effects of cancer treatment— Shantae’s concern for the wellbeing of others has only gotten stronger.

Shantae, age 10, while undergoing chemotherapy
 “When I was diagnosed,” Shantae relays, “I said I want to find a cure for cancer.”

As a Clinical Research Coordinator at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) she is helping do just that—moving science forward by facilitating patient clinical trials. By ushering brave individuals through trials, she is making the future better and brighter while providing hope for cures: all behind the scenes.

Shantae's personal cancer journey and involvement with LWAC exposed her to the many facets of health care, driving her professional involvement with finding a cure. Throughout high school and college Shantae worked on retrospective chart reviews and data analysis for Richard B. Womer, MD, attending physician at CHOP and professor of Pediatrics at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania.

Dr. Womer, who specializes in sarcomas and medication and chemotherapy safety, was also Shantae’s childhood oncologist. Dr. Wormer and Shantae’s mentor in research Barbara Bayton, who was very instrumental in teaching Shantae how to coordinate clinical trials until her recent retirement, offered Shantae her first job out of college—and she has been at CHOP ever since.

Penn is leading the way in research that will benefit cancer survivors of all ages and types. Led by LIVESTRONG Survivorship Center of Excellence Program Director Linda A. Jacobs, PhD, RN, the Survivorship team consists of physician specialists, researchers, psychosocial and nutritional counselors, support services providers, a rehabilitation medicine physician, and an exercise physiologist.

“We empower patients to take control of their long-term health and well-being,” said Dr. Jacobs. “Our goal is to optimize patients’ quality of life. We are very successful in facilitating a very close relationship with oncologists and primary care doctors—so that new advances are immediately translated into the clinical environment.”

From doing research on such issues as bone loss, hot flashes, the impact of acupuncture, and lymphedema and cardiac problems that may develop following certain chemotherapy treatments, to helping patients cope with recurrence, genetics, insurance, and fertility issues, the LWAC provides survivors the tools they need to flourish after beating cancer.

Shantae (second to the right) with her sisters Janay, Tara, Tamara, and Dana and mom Carol (wearing scarf).
 And Shantae is doing just that. She is working towards a Master’s in Clinical Research, and plans on one day leading research projects at CHOP. As a patient of the LWAC Program at the Abramson Cancer Center, her care is no longer focused on cancer, but cancer’s long-term effect on her health.

“The Survivorship program has been source of guidance to the well being of my adult life after cancer. Dr. Jacobs and my team help me to think of my health in a long-term way, and deal with the adult issues resulting from surviving a childhood cancer,” Shantae explained. “I am so thankful it exists!” Because of her history, Shantae occasionally comes out from behind the scenes to speak with young patients with similar diagnosis to hers, or who are about to undergo an amputation, in order to help guide them.

“I remember the day of my surgery like it was yesterday. It is when I first cried over my diagnosis and when the magnitude of what was happening hit me,” Shantae recalled. “I love that I am able to use my life to help young people through similar experiences.”

She was also recently able to volunteer at Beyond Cancer, an annual event where families are able to reunite with fellow patients and staff.

“While everyone may not have had a personal cancer journey like mine that led them here, everyone appreciates the hardships that children and families go through with cancer,” Shantae explained of her co-workers.

“We are a tight knit group with a bond for one common goal: to help treat and cure cancers.”

The Living Well After Childhood Cancer™ Program is grateful for the generous support of the Rosato Family through the Sarah Marie Golf Invitational. The 11th annual golf outing will be held on September 29th at Sunnybrook Golf Club. Click here to learn more, attend, or support this important event.

To get more information about the survivorship program at Penn Call 1-800-789-PENN (7366) to be connected toll-free to our Living Well After Cancer™ Program.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Ride To Conquer Cancer - Jim's Story, and His Tips for New Riders

As a competitive cyclist in the 70s, Jim Finkel rode alongside some of the best cyclists in the world. He didn’t know it at the time, but his constant challenges to go faster, work harder, go longer distances, and fuel his body with proper nutrition got him in shape for the greatest challenge of his life – cancer.

And, in a way, cycling saved his life.

“Towards the end of 2012 I was having trouble breathing, either on or off the bike,” says the 61-year-old mechanical engineer. “I was unable to clear my nostrils as I rode, and when over-the-counter medications and antibiotics didn’t work, we knew it was time to take the next step toward a proper diagnosis.”

After scopes and scans revealed a tumor in his nasal cavity, Jim began an 18-month journey to treat cancer that involved two surgeries, and radiation therapy. But he barely took a break from his bike. 

“When it was warm enough to ride outside, I immediately started to kick up my mileage while not pushing too hard,” says Jim. “Once I’d started radiation therapy, I was back up to doing at least four hours a week of saddle time on a bike.”

“Keeping my weight up during treatment was a challenge, but cycling actually helped. Though my sense of taste was dulled, I was used to getting calories back in to my body. I knew I had to eat and carefully match my calories in to calories burned, so I held weight throughout the process.”

Jim has joined the Abramson Cancer Center’s Ride to Conquer Cancer, a 150-mile ride that benefits cancer research at the Abramson Cancer Center. 

“I can’t say enough about the Abramson Cancer Center,” says Jim. “My surgeon Dr. O’Malley, my oncologist, Dr. Chip Staddon at Penn Medicine at Radnor, and Dr. Geoffrey Geiger at both the Valley Forge and the Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine always put me as a person in front of me as a patient. I want my story to give others hope.”

You don’t have to be a competitive cyclist to join the ride, however. In fact, Jim shares these tips for those people riding the event who may not be seasoned cyclists.


  1. Get slick tires: Even if you are riding a mountain bike, swapping out the heavy tread for slick, thinner tires will help you maintain speed with less effort.
  2. Inflate your tires to their recommended levels: Again, this will be less work to ride.
  3. Proper fit: Regardless of the bike you ride, make sure it fits you. Take it to a bike shop and have a professional adjust your bike to you.
  4. Drink enough water: Jim loses about three pounds an hour during a ride. Make sure you rehydrate throughout the ride and at rest stops.
  5. Helmet: Always wear one!
  6. Know when to shift: It will make your riding easier.
  7. Get proper attire: Cycling shorts aren’t just nice, but necessary. Gloves can also act as a comfort measure; as well as protection should you fall off your bike.

The Ride to Conquer Cancer©

Join Penn Medicine’s Abramson Cancer Center (ACC) on October 11 to 12, 2014 in the Ride to Conquer Cancer© (RTCC)—an unforgettable and epic bike ride through Pennsylvania’s picturesque scenery -towards one life-changing destination: to cure cancer. The ride isn't just for cyclists, it's for anyone who wants to see a cure for cancer. 

At two-days and 150+ miles the RTCC will be a physical challenge—and an emotional and inspirational weekend—that will give you a chance to join forces with our physicians, patients, and families to leave everything on the bike course and raise serious funds and awareness in the ACC’s fight to cure cancer. 

The funds raised through the ride will be put to use immediately, powering the ACC's vision to eradicate cancer as a cause of human disease and suffering through precision medicine, novel research, next-generation therapies, and compassionate care. 

JOIN TODAY!

This event will be remarkable and will bring together communities of cancer survivors, cyclists, and their supporters with a common goal to conquer this disease. Join the ride in October by registering today at www.ridetovictory.org or by calling (844) 777-7433.

Before the ride, you will have access to:

  • Expert coaching
  • Training rides in your area
  • Personal web page for fundraising
  • Helpful manual
  • 2014 ride commemorative item

During the ride, participants will have access to:

  • Event-day ride jersey
  • Support along the route
  • Catered meals
  • Entertainment at camp
  • Massage and medical care

Monday, August 18, 2014

The Little Team for a Cure - Tasha's Ride to Conquer Cancer Story

Ride to Conquer Cancer Philadelphia
The LITTLE Team for a CURE. From left: Patrick Heringslack, Tasha Little, Howard Little.
"We're all living one life, we're all fighting to live. I feel it matters. I feel I need to contribute however I can. I was lucky and I have a will to live." – Tasha

Tasha Little was 42 years old when she learned she had breast cancer. She had no family history of breast cancer, exercised regularly, maintained a healthy diet, and was active with her two boys. But, she still found herself facing a cancer diagnosis.

“I’ve always believed in preventative care,” says Tasha. “When I learned the lump that showed up on a routine mammogram was breast cancer, I was completely overwhelmed.”

At the time she was diagnosed, she had just gone through a divorce, and found out she had cancer while moving from her home of 13 years following the split.

Fortunately, Tasha had time to research her options. She decided to get her cancer treatment at the Abramson Cancer Center.

“Getting the cancer out of my body was obviously important to me,” she says, “but so was reconstruction. When I met Drs. Tchou and Wu, I knew I was in the right place.”

Tasha was impressed with the way both the surgical oncologist and plastic surgeon collaborated as a team.

“My surgeons had a wonderful relationship with each other, and it made me feel comfortable to know they worked together so well,” she says.

Tasha had unilateral mastectomy (removal of one breast) and reconstruction at Penn. That was just over a year ago, and today, she’s giving back by participating in the inaugural Philadelphia Ride to Conquer Cancer® that benefits the Abramson Cancer Center.

“I heard the radio ads, and since I was an avid cyclist before I was diagnosed, I thought it would be a great way for me to get back in the saddle for a good cause,” says Tasha.

Tasha invited her dad, Howard, and her friend Patrick to join her on the ride. Riding with her dad has been a special experience, because her family had a big part in her recovery.

“I was raising two boys. My mother would take me to the hospital while my dad stayed at home and took care of the boys,” says Tasha. “This whole experience was a family effort, even though it was something I personally dealt with.”

"Parents who know what it is like to have a sick child know that no words can comfort the fear and anxiety and emotions you experience as a parent,” says Howard. “Even with a child in her 40s, it still feels like she’s your little baby and you just want to comfort and protect her. You have to have hope and positivity and know that doctors are doing as much as they can for you."

So far, “The LITTLE Team for a CURE has raised $4,811.00 and plans to meet their goal of $8,000.00 in time for the ride. "If you're an avid rider, it's about what you can do to help. If you've never rode before, it can be done. People are generous and if you're passionate people will support you,” says Tasha.

The Ride to Conquer Cancer®

Join Penn Medicine’s Abramson Cancer Center (ACC) on October 11 to 12, 2014 in the Ride to Conquer Cancer (RTCC)—an unforgettable and epic bike ride through Pennsylvania’s picturesque landscape -towards one life-changing destination: to cure cancer. The ride isn't just for cyclists, it's for anyone who wants to see a cure for cancer.

At two-days and 150+ miles the RTCC will be a physical challenge—and an emotional and inspirational weekend—that will give you a chance to ride side by side with physicians, patients and families--raising serious funds and awareness in the ACC’s fight to cure cancer.

The funds raised through the ride will be put to use immediately, powering the ACC's vision to eradicate cancer as a cause of human disease and suffering through precision medicine, novel research, next-generation therapies, and compassionate care.

Join Today

This event will be remarkable, bringing together communities of cancer survivors, cyclists, and their supporters with a common goal to conquer this disease. Join the ride in October by registering today at www.ridetovictory.org or by calling (844) 777-7433.

Before the ride, you will have access to:
  • Expert coaching
  • Training rides in your area
  • Personal web page for fundraising
  • Helpful manual
  • 2014 ride commemorative item
During the ride, participants will have access to:
  • Event-day ride jersey
  • Support along the route
  • Catered meals
  • Entertainment at camp
  • Massage and medical care

Monday, August 11, 2014

Back in the Saddle with Team Penn Vet for the Ride to Conquer Cancer

Ride to Conquer Cancer Philadelphia
When we think of cancer, we don’t always think of cancer in animals. But, for Sarah Rauers, administrative assistant, for the animal biology department at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, cancer in animals – and people – is always in her thoughts.

“At this point, I don’t think there is anyone who doesn’t know someone with, or who has had cancer,” says Sarah. “I’ve had family members, as well as pets, I’ve watched suffer through the disease.”

And that, says Sarah, is one of the things that has motivated her to join the Philadelphia Ride to Conquer Cancer this October.

“I went to an information session with my co-workers, and we decided to start a team together,” says Sarah. “There was so much energy and hope we saw within the ride and the research happening at Penn, we wanted to support the cause.”

Cancer Research at Penn Vet

Within the faculty at Penn Vet, there is a lot of research that focuses on cancer. “Penn Vet studies cancer biology in mice, dogs and larger animals – all part of a mission to pursue translational medicine,” says Sarah. “Breakthroughs in cancer research today made in research could someday can one day help conquer cancer in all species.”

The other motivation behind Sarah’s decision was a very personal one.

"A couple of years ago I was hit by a car while commuting on my bike to work,” she says. “I suffered a great deal of physical and emotional trauma from that experience. Getting back on my bike and participating in The Ride is a big milestone for me.”

As for her fundraising efforts, Sarah has been pleasantly surprised at the support she’s gotten from family and friends.

“Fundraising has been so much easier than I thought it would be. Shocked by the generosity of my friends and family, and ‘Facebook friends,’” she says. “If you are considering joining, just do it. For about three days after my team signed up we were concerned about what we got ourselves into but it’s going to be easier and more rewarding than any of us think!”

Check out more from Team Penn Vet here.

The Ride to Conquer Cancer®

Join Penn Medicine’s Abramson Cancer Center (ACC) on October 11 to 12, 2014 in the Ride to Conquer Cancer (RTCC)—an unforgettable and epic bike ride through Pennsylvania’s picturesque landscape -towards one life-changing destination: to cure cancer. The ride isn't just for cyclists, it's for anyone who wants to see a cure for cancer.

At two-days and 150+ miles the RTCC will be a physical challenge—and an emotional and inspirational weekend—that will give you a chance to ride side by side with physicians, patients and families--raising serious funds and awareness in the ACC’s fight to cure cancer.

The funds raised through the ride will be put to use immediately, powering the ACC's vision to eradicate cancer as a cause of human disease and suffering through precision medicine, novel research, next-generation therapies, and compassionate care.

Join Today

This event will be remarkable, bringing together communities of cancer survivors, cyclists, and their supporters with a common goal to conquer this disease. Join the ride in October by registering today at www.ridetovictory.org or by calling (844) 777-7433.

Before the ride, you will have access to:
  • Expert coaching
  • Training rides in your area
  • Personal web page for fundraising
  • Helpful manual
  • 2014 ride commemorative item
During the ride, participants will have access to:
  • Event-day ride jersey
  • Support along the route
  • Catered meals
  • Entertainment at camp
  • Massage and medical care