Fighting cancer with candy and care: WRA raises $3,200 for breast cancer vaccine

Fighting cancer with candy and care: WRA raises $3,200 for breast cancer vaccine

To celebrate Valentine's Day last month, more than 3,400 "Crush-O-Grams" were delivered across campus. These notes of kindness that students, faculty and staff can purchase to send to friends, colleagues and peers are a beloved tradition at Reserve.

But the Crush-O-Grams event is so much more than a fun way to celebrate friendship, camaraderie and love at WRA. Arranged by the student organization REACH (Reserve Ethically Advancing Community Health) and REACH coordinator and Director of the John D. Ong Library Holly Bunt, the Crush-O-Grams initiative is a community-wide effort to raise money for cancer research.

This year, the school's efforts raised $3,200 from Crush-O-Gram sales, which will go to Cleveland Clinic's breast cancer vaccine.

Science faculty Dr. Robert Aguilar, who received his doctoral degree in regulatory biology with a specialization in cellular and molecular medicine through Cleveland State University and Cleveland Clinic, has close ties to the Clinic. His research there involved the development of a vaccine for testicular cancer, and at Reserve, he currently teaches Cancer Immunology, Biotechnology and A.P. Biology.

On Friday, Feb. 24, Dr. Aguilar took to the Chapel podium at Morning Meeting to express his sincere gratitude to REACH and all who purchased grams and as such played a role in the research hospital's efforts to combat and cure breast cancer.

"More than six years ago, the Tuohy lab at Cleveland Clinic published groundbreaking research involving the development of a prophylactic breast cancer vaccine. Meaning, a vaccine that can prevent breast cancer. Think about that. Just like it is very common nowadays to ask someone if they've had the flu shot, one of these days you'll ask your mother, your daughter, your reflection in the mirror, 'Have you had your Pink Vaccine?'"

Even still, he added, according to the National Breast Cancer Foundation, one out of every eight women will get breast cancer. About 40,610 women in the United States are expected to die of breast cancer in 2017. A vaccine exists, but it will take time and, as Dr. Aguilar described, money to make it accessible to everyone.

"Thanks to private investors and forward-thinking people such as yourselves, the Pink Vaccine is a step closer to becoming a household name," he said. "In the first part of the clinical trials known as phase 1, women with advanced forms of breast cancer that are due for a radical mastectomy (meaning, removal of the breast) are given the Pink Vaccine. Following the mastectomy, breast tissue samples are sent to the Tuohy lab where they are analyzed for efficacy as well as possible side effects of the vaccine. From here, the clinical trials will work backwards from late stage breast cancer patients, to eventually healthy women. When that time comes, when the Pink Vaccine becomes a household name, you can be proud to say that you contributed to its success and then rest assured that your mother, sister, wife, daughter, granddaughter are all well protected. Thank you."

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