$24,000,000 Generated Nationwide For Cancer Research

GAC reported that in 2016 its cumulative funding from events across the country approached $24 million since 1997.

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2016 Longpre Pro/Am Winners

Thirty teams played in the 2016 Golfers Against Cancer Longpré Pro/Am. The Pros and their teams played 2 courses, Deerwood Club and the Island Course at Kingwood Country Club. Total purse for the event was one of the largest in South Texas PGA events at $45,000.

Island Course

1st Eric Bogar, 75, Sugar Creek $10,000
2nd Chad Donegan, 79, Landa Park $5,000
3rd Tie Ron Zabrowski, 80, Deerwood Club $1875
3rd Tie Jason Alexander, 80, Carlton Woods $1875
3rd Tie Jeremy Ice, 80, Northgate $1875
3rd Tie Brandt Kieschnick, 80, Sam Houston State $1875

Deerwood

1st Tie Ben Willman, 70, Woodforest $7500
1st Tie Ryan Polzin, 70, Royal Oak $7500
3rd Tie James Brown River Bend, 75, $3000
3rd Tie Carl Baker, 75, Sugar Creek $3000
5th Tie Tim Hobby, 76, Sonterra $500
5th Tie Chad Barrum, 76, Pebble Creek $500
5th Tie Allen Hode, 76, Woodforest $500

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MD Anderson’s Promise Summer 2016 magazine article about GAC

golfersActor Chris Rich (left) and GAC co-founder Bobby Jones at the 2015 tournament at The Clubs of Kingwood. Photo by Hugh Hargrave.

A few sage words of advice from his wife changed Bobby Jones’ life: “If you feel this way, do something about it.”

It was 1997, and one of Jones’ close friends had just been diagnosed with esophageal cancer. They had met through the Deerwood Golf Club in Kingwood. As news spread, the entire golf group grew more devastated. Then, the golfers were hit with another blow when their assistant pro developed a brain tumor a few months later.

“Most of the time, the easiest way for us to help out was to write a check,” says Jones. “But in this case, that just wasn’t enough.”

Jones and his friends created Golfers Against Cancer (GAC) and in six weeks raised $80,000.

“Our purpose was to show our two friends that we really cared about them,” says Jones. “It was only later when we started allocating the money that we got excited about what the money could do.”

To date, GAC has funded more than $1.87 million for cancer research at MD Anderson. Jones credits the group’s success to the strictly volunteer-based structure of the organization.

“That’s really our secret sauce,” he says. “There are no paid executives; it’s all volunteers. People really feel like they own the organization, and they do.”

MD Anderson remains one of GAC’s primary beneficiaries.

“It’s the leading cancer research center in the world, it’s in Houston, we have direct relationships with the researchers and administration and it’s treated so many of our friends,” says Jones. “We know that our money going to MD Anderson can do more, or as much as it can going anywhere else.”

Since 1997, GAC has made possible 23 research projects, among others, at MD Anderson that:

  • Tested a screening strategy for early-stage ovarian cancer in more than 5,000 women where no more than three operations were required to detect each case of ovarian cancer
  • Detected early-stage cancer in nine of 12 women (75%) by the screening where only 20% of early-stage cases would be expected
  • Leveraged nearly $2 million in funds from the National Cancer Institute through the Ovarian Specialized Program of Research Excellence (SPORE) program and $50,000 from The Jane P. and Wiley L. Mossy Jr. Foundation
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Texas Children’s Cancer Center – #2 in the nation!

Best in Texas. 4th in the U.S.

unnamedTexas Children’s Hospital again ranks fourth among the approximately 180 pediatric centers surveyed by U.S. News & World Report in their 2016-17 edition of Best Children’s Hospitals. Consistently ranked as a national leader, Texas Children’s is one of only 11 children’s hospitals to achieve the Honor Roll designation nationally, and the only hospital in Texas – and the southern U.S. – awarded this distinction. In the last 10 years, no other pediatric hospital in the state has ever achieved an overall ranking as high as Texas Children’s.

“These rankings continue to reflect the steadfast commitment Texas Children’s has to providing the highest quality patient care and outcomes for the families we serve,” says Mark A. Wallace, president and CEO of Texas Children’s.

This year, the Pulmonology department ranks #1 in the country. We also have six subspecialties in the top five, three of which rank #2 nationally.

In a process that has become increasingly rigorous and data driven, the U.S. News rankings enable hospitals to look in the mirror and scrutinize themselves.

On behalf of sick children and their families, Texas Children’s uses these rankings as an opportunity to develop a blueprint to be the world’s best and highest quality pediatric health care institution.

Our generous donors and supporters help Texas Children’s achieve these outstanding national rankings and make so many of our successes possible. Thank you for all you do to help us keep our promise to provide the very best care to the patients and families we serve.

Learn more about these rankings.

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University of Houston Cancer Research Outcome Funded by Golfers Against Cancer

The links below describe cancer research efforts that were seed funded by the GAC at the University of Houston.  This first paper (Tennakoon et al) was initially published in 2013 but the final format was published in print the following year. The second is a review article co-authored by Daniel E. Frigo, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, University of Houston Center for Nuclear Receptors & Cell Signaling
Department of Biology & Biochemistry and Dr. Andrew Schally who is the Head of The Endocrine, Polypeptide and Cancer Institute, Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Research Services South Florida, VA Foundation for Research and Education. Andrew Schally won the 1977 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for his work that led to the discovery of the one of the standards of care treatment for advanced prostate cancer—hormone ablation therapy/chemical castration. The third paper has been one of that journal’s Top Ten Most Downloaded papers since the second month after it was published (over 1.5 years). Collectively, these also helped set the foundation for our recent larger R01 grant and the GAC is credited in all for support.

In addition, here are two links that further describe/acknowledge progress on our University of Houston’s GAC-funded research. The GAC funded first award (Development of a CaMKKbeta-Selective Antagonist for the Treatment of Advanced Prostate Cancer) set the foundation for an initial $337,000 award from the Department of Defense/Prostate Cancer Research Program (DOD/PCRP). This is highlighted in the following link: CNRCS Investigators Awarded Additional Funding from NIH, DOD. This grant just ended and the progress made on this project is being highlighted by the DOD in their FY2016 newsletter.

Next, the data generated from the GAC and DOD funded project just led earlier this year to the awarding of a much larger ~$1.9 million grant from the NIH/NCI. A description of this can be found in the following link: New Prostate Cancer Treatments Could Target Metabolism.

Popovics P_Exp Opin The Targets 2015

Tennakoon et al Oncogene 2014

Tsouko et al 2014

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Houston GAC Grants by Cancer Type

Houston Research Grants Since 1997 by Cancer Type

Cumulative funding by Houston since inception totals over $7.2 million, attracting an additional $5.5 million in matching funds.

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GAC 2015 Research Grants

GAC 2015 Grant Highlights

2015 was an outstanding year for Golfers Against Cancer nationwide. GAC’s fund raising efforts provided over $661,000 in research grants during the 2015 fiscal year.  These grants attracted matching funds of $332,000. When combined, GAC research grants and matching funds were over $993,000.

GAC’s cumulative fund raising since inception in 1997 now totals $14.3 million in direct grants and $9.1 million in attracted matching funds for a total of $23.3 million.

Houston 2015 research grants were awarded to Methodist Foundation, MD Anderson Cancer Center, Baylor College of Medicine, Texas Children’s Hospital, University of Houston and Prostate Cancer Foundation. Greensboro grants went to Duke Medical Center, UNC Lineberger Community Cancer Center and Wake Forest Cancer Center. Denver’s grant went to University of Colorado Cancer Center. Florida grants went to Moffitt Cancer Center – Tampa, and Dattoli Cancer Center – Sarasosta.

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2015 Longpre ProAm Results

Thirty five teams played in the 2015 Golfers Against Cancer Longpré Pro/Am. The Pros and their teams played 2 courses, Deerwood and the Island Course at Kingwood Country Club. Total purse for the event was one of the largest in South Texas PGA events at $50,000.

Winners were:

Kingwood Island Course Winners

1st Ryan Polzin $10,000 with a score of 72

2nd tie Chad Barrum $5,000 – 75

2nd tie Robert Simpson $5,000    75

4th tie Tim Hobby $1,750     76

4th Tie Brooks Maak $1,750     76

6th Tie Garrison Nordt $750     78

6th Tie Bill Wenning $750     78

Deerwood Course Winners

1st Brandt Kieshnick $10,000 with a score of 73

2nd Tie Eric Bogar $5,000    74

2nd tie Olle Karlstrom $5,000    74

4th tie Billy Brozowick Am no winnings    75

4th tie Chad Donnegan $1,750 –  75

4th tie Troy Schleicker $1,750    75

6th tie Ron Herridge $500   – 77

6th tie Chip Craig $500    77

6th tie Sean Reeve $500    77

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UH Moment: ‘Pancreatic Cancer’

Cancer has stubbornly held tight to all its secrets…but one University of Houston center is getting closer to unlocking them. Here’s this week’s UH Moment.

“Pancreatic cancer is one of the deadliest cancers,” said Professor Chin-Yo Lin with the UH Center for Nuclear Receptors and Cell Signaling. “By the time the patient notices that something is wrong, and it’s been properly diagnosed, the disease is very advanced.”

Lin’s innovative research into pancreatic cancer is investigating how to “tell” cancerous tumors in the pancreas to stop growing. It involves something called LXRs, or Liver X receptors.

Imagine a target, and this target’s is named “Liver X Receptor.” It lives inside a cancerous tumor. Lin’s research finds ways to tell Liver X Receptor to carry a drug into the tumor’s DNA and switch off the part that tells the tumor to grow. 

“In our first set of experiments, we were able to show that Liver X receptors are involved in the growth of tumor cells,” he said. “Our next phase is to identify even better chemical compounds specifically for cancer, and specifically for pancreatic cancer.” 

Liver X is part of a family of genes known as nuclear receptors, and they are part of a growing area of interest for cancer researchers because of the way they bind with chemical compounds to “talk” to the tumor. 

The Center for Nuclear Receptors and Cell Signaling was established at UH in 2009 and is a leading component of the UH Health Initiative.  Led by Jan-Åke Gustafsson, a National Academy of Sciences member and world-renowned expert in the field of nuclear receptors, the center researchers are focused on understanding the roles of these receptors—like Liver X—in health and disease…to prolong patient lives or even eradicate the deadliest of cancers.

Lin’s research is funded by Golfers Against Cancer and the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT). 

“This is a promising development in this particular field,” Lin said. “Not only are we studying a gene that has a function in tumor cells, but we can actually manipulate it, which is the other difficult challenge in cancer research.”   

Cancer research is part of what’s happening at the University of Houston.  I’m Marisa Ramirez.

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Another Cancer Breakthrough Funded by Golfers Against Cancer in 2013 and 2014

His body ravaged by chemotherapy treatments, retired radio engineer John Kanzius spent months in his basement in 2003 cobbling together a makeshift tumor-killing machine. Kanzius had no medical background. He had been a ham radio operator and the owner of a television and radio station company. But he had leukemia, and he did not want to die.

He was also sharp, dogged and a quick learner. He immersed himself in scientific studies, poring over the latest cancer research. Radio waves heated metal, and he wondered if they could be safely transmitted into humans to destroy tumors. He did not know it then, but the John Kanzius’s Noninvasive Radiowave Cancer Device that evolved from this thought experiment would eventually make the pages of respected medical journals and attract the support of leading cancer researchers, as well as a Nobel Prize winner. When I interviewed him in his Erie, Pennsylvania, home in 2007, he vowed to live to see the day that his device would treat humans. He also desperately wanted to cure himself.

Dr. Steven A. Curley, an oncologist then at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston who launched Kanzius’s research into the national spotlight and devoted his career to the project, visited him in the hospital in 2008. Curley had treated many cancer patients, but over the previous five years he had grown particularly close with Kanzius. “I don’t think I’ve got long to go,” Kanzius told Curley. “I just want you to promise me that you won’t give up.  You will get this to human trials.”

Curley promised he would. “I believe in this,” he said. “It has unbelievable potential.”

In 2009, Kanzius died at 64 from pneumonia while undergoing chemotherapy. Many thought the Kanzius machine would die with him.

But this May, Curley filed protocols with the Italian Ministry of Health to test the radio wave machine on humans diagnosed with pancreatic and liver cancer. Pending approval in the fall, human clinical trials will begin in the spring of next year in Naples, Italy.

The device Curley will use for clinical trials looks much different from the first one Kanzius built. He’s now on the sixth-generation version. Looking back at the original machine, “it was very basic,” Curley says. “But it got the job done.”

It began with some antennas, copper wires and copper sulfate solid that Kanzius hunted down. He combined them—along with some of his wife’s pie pans—into a radio wave transmitter device. With it, Kanzius proved that when stabbed with metal prongs and zapped with radio waves, areas of hot dogs and slabs of liver and steak would burn while the rest of the meat remained unaffected.

Invigorated, Kanzius secured a patent and tracked down Curley, who specialized in radiofrequency ablation (which involves inserting needles into tumors and zapping them with electrodes—a method that heats and kills them, but can’t reach all tumor sites and sometimes damages surrounding cells). Curley recalls: “His physician called me and said, ‘Look, I’ve got this patient who has read your work. He thinks he’s got a better idea for curing cancer, and he won’t leave me alone. Would you talk to him?’”

Curley gave Kanzius a call, and after listening to him explain his invention, told him he needed to find a substance that could attach to cancer cells and would burn when blasted with radio waves, so as not to damage nearby cells. Nanoparticles, Kanzius replied. They are so tiny that 100,000 of them lined up are about the width of sewing thread. More than 2,000 nanoparticles could fit inside of a red blood cell. Kanzius didn’t know how he could get some nanoparticles, and no one actually knew if they would burn, but it was worth a try.

“It was the start of a beautiful friendship,” Curley says. He put Kanzius in touch with a Nobel Prize– winning chemist, Richard Smalley, who specialized in nanoscience and was on his deathbed from cancer. Smalley gave Curley two vials of carbon nanotubes, a kind of nanoparticle that is hollow, with a cylinder structure. In June 2005, with Kanzius’ encouragement, Curley put them in the machine, which used a pair of antennas with copper coils at each end to send high-voltage radio waves through the nanoparticles. “They heated at a remarkable rate.”

To Curley, this meant the machine had the potential to treat cancer without needles, debilitating chemo or invasive surgeries. Combined with nanoscience, it could possibly one day detect and kill the most microscopic of cancer cells, which current machines cannot even find. “It blew my mind,” he says. “I  started putting together research proposals.”

Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh, the MD Anderson Cancer Center and Rice University tested the technology. Curley’s team injected nanoparticles into human cancer cells in petri dishes, as well as into tumors in mice, rats, rabbits and pigs. Using the Kanzius machine, they were able to heat the nanoparticles and, as a result, kill all those cancerous cells. Results were published in the oncology medical journal Cancer, as well as Nano Research. They were publicized around the world and featured on 60 Minutes. Over and over again, after being injected with nanoparticles and heated with radio waves, cancer cells died while surrounding healthy areas remained intact.

“We’ve treated pigs with far higher doses than I would ever use in a human being,” Curley says. “We found that animals we treated were fine; their blood tests were fine. It really did nothing in terms of damage to other cells.”

Enough to Fight for

Though he had become thinner with his illness, Kanzius still enjoyed expensive fine dining out on the town. Curley accompanied him on some of those drives about town, as residents waved and shouted, “Mr. Kanzius!” He says the locals treated Kanzius like a rock star.

An unabashed optimist, Kanzius sometimes made overreaching claims about his device, telling audiences and fans: “I think I’ve found a cure for cancer.” This always made Curley cringe. He had to explain to Kanzius that it was dangerous to get people’s hopes up too high. “I don’t tell patients they are cured until eight, nine, 10 years down road—and after proving they don’t have microscopic cancer cells hiding somewhere.” If the machine led to a more effective, less toxic treatment for cancer, he told Kanzius, then that was a huge accomplishment. That was enough to fight for.

As publicity grew, Curley began receiving hundreds of calls and emails a week from cancer patients and their families. Curley had to tell people, many of whom were on their deathbeds, that the treatment was not yet ready. Still, they persisted. “I will sign a waiver. I will do whatever it takes,” they pleaded. Patients promised that if they could come to Curley’s lab as secret test subjects, they wouldn’t tell anybody. Curley would again say no with apologies. “I get it,” Curley says now. “Cancer scares the hell out of people.” Other people tried to figure out how to build their own Kanzius machine. “One guy sent a video of himself standing between two antennas,” Curley says.

Kanzius finally stopped telling people he had a cure when cancer patients began showing up at his house asking for impromptu treatments. He couldn’t actually help; he didn’t have any spare nanoparticles. And even if he could get ahold of the nanoparticles, he didn’t have a way to get them into the cancer cells. Kanzius knew this, because he tried to treat himself in the summer of 2008. He called Curley and told him he was using the device to channel radio waves into his own body. “I just wanted to see what happened,” Kanzius told him. But, of course, radio waves alone didn’t seem to make a difference.

Into the Lab

Since Kanzius first built his machine, there have been tremendous scientific advances in both nanotechnology and cancer research. Researchers have shown that nanoparticles can be used to create supersensitive biosensors able to detect cancer cells and even identify molecules that indicate someone is at increased risk for cancer.

Google’s life sciences division, for example, has been working on combining nanoparticles with a wearable device to create the ultimate cancer detector. The theory is that nanoparticles could be ingested in a pill, for example, and then enter the bloodstream, where they would bind to a cancer cell. Since the core of the nanoparticles can be magnetic, the wearable device would detect and lure these cells toward it, where they would be counted using light and possibly even radio waves.

Recently, Abhilash Sasidharan at India’s Amrita Centre for Nanoscience and Molecular Medicine was so inspired by the work of Kanzius and Curley that he decided to test a similar technique using nanoparticles called graphene—honeycomb sheets of carbon atoms that make up the thinnest solid ever discovered. Graphene is flexible, transparent, highly electrically conductive and stronger than steel.

Sasidharan’s team has used radio waves to destroy advanced-stage cancer cells that are highly resistant to other treatments, and found that graphene could heat at higher levels than other nanoparticles —which makes for a more efficient tumor-killing machine. In addition, in comparison to carbon nanotubes or gold nanoparticles—another material currently being investigated for cancer-curing potential—which may be toxic and hard for the body to break down, graphene, Sasidharan says, “is biodegradable; it can be safely used for human applications.”

Curley has 20 researchers with expertise in nanomaterials, radiofrequency, immune function and drug delivery functions working in his lab at the Dan L. Duncan Cancer Center at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas. But he’s also been doing clinical research in Italy since 1982—the regulatory processes for human trials there, he says, are not as arduous as they are in the U.S. He did initial clinical trials for his early radiofrequency ablation research in Italy in 1997, which were followed by successful clinical trials in the U.S. a year later.

The first round of clinical trials for the new Kanzius machine design will involve exposing 15 to 20 pancreatic and liver cancer patients to radio waves in the Kanzius machine, primarily to prove the  process will not harm them, and to study the impact on their cancer cells. Tests will also examine how effectively radio wave treatments work when used along with known chemo drugs.

The treatment, of course, would need to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration before it could treat patients in the U.S. Curley is hopeful, but more cautious than Kanzius was, pointing out: “A whole bunch of us have been able to cure cancer in animals. You go to humans, and sometimes there are opposite results,” he says. “You never know.” But like he told Kanzius before he died, Curley deeply believes in the potential. He made a promise to his friend, and he intends to keep it.

This article is one in a series from Newsweek’s 2015 Cancer issue, exploring challenges and innovations in cancer treatment and research. The complete issue will be available in newsstands and on digital platforms from July 24.

Correction: The article previously incorrectly stated that Dr. Steven Curley is affiliated with Baylor University. He is in fact affiliated with Baylor College of Medicine.

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