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Targeting Cancer: Light the Grill fundraiser supports blood cancer research

Light the Grill

Jeff Gusinow spent part of the summer doing something he hadn’t planned: receiving treatment at Willamette Valley Cancer Institute.

“I write on my Facebook page every week about how my ‘staycation’ is going, as if I were on a boat. So, this is the leido deck,” Jeff says from where he sits in WVCI’s infusion room.

Jeff was diagnosed 11 years ago with a slow-growing blood cancer called follicular lymphoma, the most common form of Non-Hodgkin lymphoma. His cancer has now advanced to the point where treatment is recommended.

Jeff passes the time during treatment by resting, helping his wife, Susan, do her daily crossword puzzle, visiting with other patients and organizing the annual Light the Grill event—a BBQ fundraiser he and a colleague started seven years ago to support blood cancer research through the local chapter of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

“Things are changing in follicular lymphoma right now. Research has discovered some of the engines that make the disease tick,” says Dr. Jeff Sharman, a world-renown blood cancer researcher and WVCI’s director of research.

Currently, there are clinical trials underway at WVCI that study immunomodulator drugs. Dr. Sharman says the research is promising. Based on study results, he expects the drug lenalidomide to receive FDA approval for follicular lymphoma by the end of the year. Lenalidomide is currently being used to treat patients with multiple myeloma.

“Immunomodulator drugs have a variety of effects on the immune system. But, particularly, in the management of patients with follicular lymphoma or other slow-growing lymphomas, it can really add a powerful punch when added to some of our already existing therapies,” Dr. Sharman says.

“For instance, we’re adding it to rituximab, and the two together are substantially more active than either one alone. The rituximab orients the immune system and the lenalidomide makes it hyperactive. What you get is a very eager immune system going out to find the cancer and trying to make it better. I think that for some of these diseases that were historically not considered curable, that may be starting to change.”

These exciting advances in research give Jeff and Susan Gusinow hope, and fuel Jeff’s determination to keep Lighting the Grill.

“I’m hoping to have a really big turnout at this year’s Light the Grill event. Being in treatment, I realize just how important the research is,” Jeff says.

“My attitude, personally, has really changed since the time Jeff received his diagnosis until now,” Susan says. “I’ve gone from feeling scared to being quite optimistic and hopeful. Thrilling things are happening in the field of cancer.”

Light the Grill

To date, Light the Grill has raised more than $160,000 dollars for blood cancer research.

When: September 8, 2017

11:00 am – 2:00 pm

Where: Alton Baker Park, Eugene

Tickets: $15/person, available at the Eugene branch of Oregon Pacific Bank

Enjoy a delicious BBQ lunch along with Umpqua Dairy ice cream and Full City Coffee. Live entertainment is provided by Steel Magnolias.

A wide variety of silent auction and raffle items will also be on display, including LASIK eye surgery and follow-up treatment, week-long stays in Sunriver, Oregon, and Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, an IMAX T3 electric scooter and a $500 travel voucher from the Eugene Airport. Get more event information here.

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