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Denim & Diamonds Fundraiser Set for Oct. 15

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Simmons Cancer Institute (SCI) at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine will host its annual “Denim & Diamonds” fundraiser Saturday, October 15. The event features one-of-a-kind live and silent auction items, raffles, live entertainment and dinner. More than 600 guests attended last year’s fundraiser.Denim & Diamonds Fundraiser Set for Oct. 15

“It’s a spectacular event that features something for everyone,” said Tara Matheson, 2016 Denim & Diamonds chair. “What is incredibly meaningful about Denim & Diamonds is the funds that it raises for cancer research on the SIU School of Medicine campus and the patient programs at SCI.” Every dollar donated stays in this region.

“The funds we raise at Denim & Diamonds advance the care of cancer patients by providing seed money to researchers in the initial stages of their lab work,” said Aziz Khan, executive director of SCI, chief of hematology oncology and a practicing oncologist at SCI.

Funds made possible by Denim & Diamonds have supported two grants awarded to SCI researchers. “Both grants went on to be awarded national funding,” said Khan. “Without the initial funding donated through this event, those ideas may have stagnated.”

Using the seed money provided by Denim & Diamonds, SCI researchers Andy Wilber, PhD, and Don Torry, PhD, investigated “natural killer cells,” a type of immune cell that normally destroy infected or transformed cells. The researchers saw that cancer has a strange effect on killer cells; it causes them to support tumor growth, rather than inhibit it. Wilber and Torry’s work was awarded a major grant by the National Cancer Institute, a division of the National Institutes of Health.

Two other SCI scientists, Dale “Buck” Hales, PhD, and Laurent Brard, MD, PhD, are studying whether flaxseed, a diet supplement, can lengthen the remission time in ovarian cancer patients. Their work has the potential to improve patient outcomes by delaying the recurrence as well as identifying novel biomarkers for earlier disease detection.

Patient programs at SCI offer a variety of complementary therapies, such as yoga and fitness classes designed to make patients’ lives better. These classes are free to patients, their family and caregivers, regardless of where they receive cancer treatment.

“Denim & Diamonds is so much more than an event,” said Matheson. “It is a partnership to battle a disease that touches everyone. The funds raised at this event are put to work here in our area, and we can see the good work that happens every day.”

Denim & Diamonds guests are encouraged to dress in their finest denim or formal attire for the event, which will begin at 6:30 p.m. at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, 3000 S. Dirksen Parkway, Springfield. Tickets are $125 per person or $1,250 for a table of 10 and are available by calling 217-545-2955. Register online at siumed.edu/cancer.

Both the live and silent auctions feature vacation homes, gourmet dinners, sporting event tickets, original artwork, one-of-a-kind jewelry and much more. The event will also feature a sit-down dinner and live music.

This year’s presenting sponsors are Memorial Health Systems and Simmons Hanly Conroy.

Other sponsors include Jeff and Tina Bennett, Merrill Lynch Wealth Management - The Noonan Group, BUNN, Clinical Radiologists, SC, HSHS St. John's Hospital, Bank of Springfield, BRANDT, The Horace Mann Companies, Aziz and Tarfa Khan, Gina Kovach and Dave Steward, Lois and Jerry Kruse, Dr. and Mrs. Kevin T. McVary, Regency Care & Heritage Health of Springfield, and Rita & Jack Victor / Michael Davis & Jay Fields.

Media sponsors are Capitol Radio Group, Mid-West Family Broadcasting, The State Journal-Register and Springfield Scene magazine.

The mission of Simmons Cancer Institute at SIU is to serve the people of central and southern Illinois by addressing their present and future cancer needs through education, research, patient care and community service.

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