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Dynamic Chiropractic Canada – March 1, 2009, Vol. 02, Issue 02
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The Angels of Hope Legacy

Turning tragedy into an opportunity to help others.

By W. Mark DeGruchy, DC

When I first met NHL player Wade Redden (Ottawa Senators) 10 years ago, I didn't know that eventually we would be united by a rare tragedy. Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), an aggressive brain cancer, took the life of Wade's mother Pat in April 2006 and my wife Veronica in March 2007. We turned our grief into passion and commitment for individuals who are fighting GBM and created the Angels of Hope Legacy.

In May 2007, the Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada was hosting the "Spring Sprint" in Ottawa to raise funds for programs and research. I became aware of this fund-raising opportunity and created Angels of Hope to assist in this endeavour. The support I received from family, friends and patients was overwhelming. In a very short time, we were able to put together an incredible team of more than 100 participants and raise more than $42,000 for the cause.

Encouraged by the love and support of so many people, I ran in the ING New York City Marathon in November 2007 as a member of Team McGraw, which represents the Tug McGraw Brain Tumour Foundation. Running in the marathon was one of the most remarkable moments of my life, a time of deep inner reflection during which I learned so much about what I truly value in life. It was a difficult time emotionally, yet so rewarding in that it made me realize I can make a difference, especially when supported by so many caring people. Joined by 25 incredible teammates, we raised more than $250,000 for the Tug McGraw Foundation.

After running the marathon, I talked to Wade Redden about a golf tournament. Last year marked the inaugural Angels of Hope Charity Golf Classic at Ottawa's Cedarhill Golf and Country Club (June 20, 2008). The more than $1 million in proceeds from this fund-raiser went to benefit GBM research at the CHEO Research Institute. Wade and I kicked off the tournament with a $250,000 donation. Another donation of $250,000 was made through the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation, and in turn, these gifts were matched by the CHEO Foundation for a total of $1 million.

CN's Miracle Matching of all funds raised during the day of the tournament meant that the total gift from the gold tournament, to the CHEO Research Institute was well over $1 million. It was wonderful that so many people came on board to help us reach this incredible total. With the 2009 tournament set to take place on June 19, we have already reached $250,000.

Glioblastoma has a five-year survival rate of only 3 percent and a one-year survival rate of 12 percent. Despite recent advances in our understanding of brain tumors, the survival rate of patients with GBM has not significantly changed in the past 30 years. Many clinicians and researchers are skeptical as to whether any of the advances in imaging, radiation, surgery or chemotherapy will have a real impact on the course of this challenging disease.

GBM research is not a cause that gets a lot of funding from outside sources. That is why I was so excited to learn about the viral oncologist research being pursued at the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) Research Institute under the leadership of Dr. David Stojdl. Along with fellow scientists John Bell and Harry Atkins, Dr. Stojdl alters naturally occurring viruses by removing genes and partial genes. They have discovered that the altered viruses, when injected into mice with tumours, selectively infect and kill only tumour cells.

These oncolytic viruses have several advantages over existing therapeutic strategies. They target tumours based on genetic molecular signatures (signaling pathways), not individual gene systems. They are multimodal agents all on their own; they kill tumour cells directly lysing the cells by a) recruiting the patient's immune system to attack the tumour, and b) manipulating the blood supply to the tumour to rapidly starve and kill tumour cells on mass. And they are cytolytic, allowing little chance for the tumour cells to evolve.

Researchers already have a number of viruses that are candidates, but developing viruses for glioblastoma presents a different set of challenges. The viruses have to be introduced into the brain without damaging it. The brain does not have the same ability to repair itself the way other organs do. At this point, we are hoping for clinical trials to begin within the next year.

I took part in the 2008 New York City Marathon with my fiancé, Karen, running as members of Team McGraw. Together with Wade Redden we are hoping to partner the two foundations for a single cause and improve the quality of life for patients with brain cancer. First, we must make this a manageable disease and ultimately, one day find a cure. Hope is not a dream, but a way of making dreams a reality, and as Tug McGraw once said, "Ya Gotta Believe."

Karen and I plan to run this year in the New York City Marathon again as members of Team McGraw. Our battle with this deadly disease has only just begun.

Dr. W. Mark DeGruchy, CEO and president of the Angels for Hope Brain Tumour Foundation, practices in downtown Ottawa. He has worked with numerous professional athletes in the NHL and CFL, as well as with numerous entertainers who perform at the National Arts Centre (NAC).

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