Thursday, May 23, 2013
The fifth annual Tri for a Cure triathlon set a record by raising more than $1.2 million for the Maine Cancer Foundation.
More than 1,100 participants -- many of them of cancer survivors -- swam, biked and ran Sunday in South Portland and Cape Elizabeth to raise money and awareness for cancer research.
About 17 percent of the money that's raised pays for the event itself, said Tara Hill, executive director of the Maine Cancer Foundation.
"Events like the Tri for a Cure can be expensive to put on, but they are so important to build awareness, that the cost is more than worth it," she said Tuesday.
Hill said expenses are kept low because of the generosity of local businesses and hundreds of volunteers.
The Maine Cancer Foundation raises money throughout the year. The Tri for a Cure is its largest fundraising event by far, accounting for about 60 percent of its funding.
Last year's event raised just over $1 million.
The race was started in 2008 by Julie Marchese and Abby Bliss as a way for women to raise money and show support for cancer victims, patients and survivors. It's now the largest triathlon in Maine.
Since Tri for a Cure began, the foundation has awarded about $4 million in grants that directly fund cancer research.
The foundation doesn't fund research efforts outright, Hill said. Typically, grants are awarded when a researcher conceives an idea. It's almost like venture capitalism, she said.
The scientist can test a theory and develop evidence to support a more complete study. If things go well, that leads to more financial support from foundations with more money.
Kevin Mills, a researcher at The Jackson Laboratory in Bar Harbor, received $67,500 from the Maine Cancer Foundation in 2010 for a project to develop an alternative to standard chemotherapy for treating leukemia and lymphoma patients.
His idea for "genetic chemotherapy" is to isolate cancer-specific genetic features and exploit them for cancer cell self-destruction while minimizing side effects in non-cancerous tissues.
"We focus on genetics and finding ways to develop new and better treatments," he said. "Maine Cancer Foundation has such a strong presence with their support of research."
Grants also have been awarded recently to researchers at the University of Maine in Orono, the Maine Medical Center Research Institute in Scarborough, the Maine Center for Cancer Medicine in Scarborough, the Maine Institute for Human Genetics and Health in Bangor, and the University of New England in Biddeford.
Hill said the foundation's money also supports continuing education for oncology nurses and physicians, and screening and early diagnosis information for other health care professionals.
"Until we find a cure, effective treatment is a crucial part of our mission," she said.
Staff Writer Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or at: