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money for research, they formed the BCRFA. I didn t want my daughter and her generation to go

through this disease. I wanted to make my experience with cancer into something positive, Mrs. O Neal says. We decided that forming a foundation was what we wanted to do.

Mrs. O Neal and Mr. Sokol put together a board of directors and began discussing fundraising ideas. Just a few months after being formed, the BCRFA would host its first fundraising event, the Drive Out Breast Cancer LPGA Pro-Am Tournament. Despite a planning period of just 13 weeks, the event raised more than $75,000. The BCRFA has never looked back.

Today, the BCRFA hosts events throughout the year to raise funds and awareness for breast cancer research. These include various sporting tournaments, t-shirt sales through fire departments across Alabama, Belk private shopping events, the annual golf tournament, and one of the foundation s biggest and most popular events, the annual Pink Palace Casino Night.

One hundred percent of the money raised by the BCRFA goes directly toward breast cancer research at the Cancer Center. With those funds, the BCRFA pro- vides pilot funding for several key breast cancer projects that have the potential to translate into new cures and disease-modifying treatments. For example, a current research project examines the role that a new retinoid called 9-cis-UAB30, developed by scientists at UAB, may play in preventing and treating cancer. Another project evaluates the drug niclosamide and its analogs which have been shown to inhibit the spread of certain cancers, including breast cancer. Researchers are also studying a protein called TLR9 which may suppress the immune system s antitumor reaction.

Also, in 2012, the BCRFA established the O Neal- Sokol Breast Cancer Research Foundation of Alabama Endowed Professorship to honor Mrs. O Neal and Mr. Sokol. Internationally renowned breast cancer special- ist and Cancer Center senior scientist Andres Forero, M.D., is the inaugural holder of the professorship, which the BCRFA hopes to turn into an endowed chair. This professorship and eventual chair not only recognizes Dr.

Forero s achievements and work, it also provides a steady funding source to help recruit additional breast cancer physicians and scientists.

Mrs. O Neal is actually a perfect example of the power and importance of funding cancer research. After receiving a clean bill of health in 1994, she went about her life and returned to raising her three children with her husband Bert. In 2009, however, Mrs. O Neal was diagnosed with a recurrence, and she was successfully treated by Dr. Forero with a new drug the Cancer Center was testing a drug that was initially developed with funding from the BCRFA. Her cancer again returned in December 2013, and she is being treated using another new drug the Cancer Center is studying through a Phase 3 trial, assisted by BCRFA funding. I m the poster girl for cancer research, Mrs. O Neal says.

Impact on the Center Breast cancer remains the sec-

ond most common cancer diagno- sis in American women, and it is the second leading cause of cancer death among women. Despite those numbers, there are more than 2.8 million breast can- cer survivors currently living in the United States. Much of the credit for that goes to advancements in research from support of organizations such as the BCRFA.

Our alliance with the Breast Cancer Research Foundation of Alabama is vital to our efforts to expand and accelerate breast cancer research, Dr. Partridge says. By enabling us to provide our scientists with a stable environment to pursue their work, the BCRFA is helping us to seize every opportunity for groundbreaking dis- covery. As much as we ve done so far, we still have much more to do. I truly believe the most meaningful advances are yet to come, and with the BCRFA s support, they will happen at UAB.

To learn more about the BCRFA or to get involved, visit www.bcrfa.org.

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