While Bears Care provides grants to a variety of programs, the Bears Care Gala is designed to fund researchers who are leaders in their field in the fight against breast and ovarian cancer and help extend breakthroughs to low income women. In the past seven years, the Bears Care Galas have raised nearly $4 million to support breast cancer research and treatment. This year alone approximately 183,000 new cases of breast cancer and 23,100 new cases of ovarian cancer will be diagnosed in this country. Bears Care supports focused research aimed at preventing and screening these devastating diseases and improving current methods of treatment.
"We are very proud of the work that has been accomplished with the proceeds from our Galas," Bears Care President Nancy McCaskey said. "These funds have allowed Dr. Beth Marcus of Cook County Hospital and Dr. Harvey Preisler of Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center to establish a new treatment program for women with advanced breast disease and will enable researchers to learn why breast cancer, in women of color, is often more resistant to treatment. Food vouchers, transportation and day care are also provided to facilitate treatment for these patients. Their work suggests that it is possible to identify, after a single course of treatment, which cancers are capable of shrinking and which patients would benefit from a different more radical form of treatment. They are currently conducting research to determine which specific genes are associated with good responses to treatment and this will allow them to target the most effective form of treatment for each individual."
Another researcher who has received funding from the Gala is Dr. Kambiz Dowlat of Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center. His work dramatically reduces the invasive nature of a lumpectomy and allows a woman to retain almost all the lymph nodes that would have, in the past, been removed for a biopsy. Dr. Dowlat is currently using lasers to remove cancerous tissue from the breast.
Bears Care has provided funding for the work of Drs. Cobleigh and Wolter. Their groundbreaking trial demonstrated that the drug, Herceptin, can induce remissions in advanced breast cancer, which is resistant to chemotherapy. A new biological agent trial is about to begin, which prevents cancers from producing the blood vessels that it needs to survive and grow. Also receiving support is the Center for the Analysis of Gene Expression. Thousands of genes will be studied to determine why some breast cancers spread, while others do not.
Bears Care also supports studies in the treatment and prevention of cancer of the ovaries by Dr. David Fishman, Director of the National Ovarian Cancer Early Detection Program at Northwestern. Ovarian cancer has been steadily increasing over the past 10 years. Historically, there has been an inability to detect this cancer when it is in the early and curable stage. Today, 75 percent of women are diagnosed with a tumor that has spread through the abdominal cavity - stage III or IV - and only 12 percent will be alive five years later. Bears Care plans to fund studies to accurately detect early stage ovarian cancer. Dr. Fishman's program has recently developed the "Ovarian Pap Test", as well as other new blood and molecular markers, that facilitate the accurate detection of early stage ovarian carcinoma. He also is developing novel drugs that are specifically targeted to fight ovarian cancer.
The Gala was highlighted by a raffle, which raised $69,900. Included among the raffle prizes was a trip for two to the 2003 Super Bowl in San Diego, round-trip tickets for two anywhere in the world United flies, $5,000 cash, and the ultimate dream trip for a die-hard Bears fan - the opportunity to travel to an away game with the team on the team charter and accommodations at the team hotel.
Ron Magers from ABC Channel 7 served as the celebrity auctioneer for the live auction. The auction prizes included: a "Salute to Soldier Field" package - two stadium seats from the ‘old' Soldier Field, autographed by Chicago Bears players and coaches from the 2001 NFC Central Division Championship team, a Sunday champagne brunch aboard the El Presidente yatch, a cocktail party at Halas Hall, a walk-on appearance on the television show "Providence" with airfare for two to California and a luxurious round trip excursion for eight aboard your own private jet!