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Sky Foundation, Inc. Donates an additional $100,000 to Pancreatic Cancer Research under way at Karmanos

Sheila Sky Kasselman's commitment to pancreatic cancer research continues to make a significant difference for cancer patients and their families. Kasselman, president and founder of Sky Foundation, Inc., recently presented $100,000 to the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute for its pioneering pancreatic cancer research. 

The funds are a result of the fourth annual Sky Foundation, Inc., event, which took place in November during Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month. This year’s event attracted 300 supporters, raising critical funds to create a screening test for the early detection of pancreatic cancer.  

Kasselman founded Sky Foundation, Inc., in 2008, just a few months after she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Now a five-year survivor, Kasselman has contributed $420,000 for pancreatic research at Karmanos through the Sky Foundation, a local foundation whose mission is to raise awareness and funding for the early detection of new and recurrent tumors of the pancreas. 

Leading the research team is Michael Tainsky, Ph.D., the Barbara and Fred Erb Endowed Professor of Cancer Genetics and professor of Oncology at the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute and Wayne State University School of Medicine. Joining him is Project Leader Steven P. Dudas, Ph.D., who is identifying circulating biomarkers for pancreatic cancer at the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute; and he is also a research associate of Molecular Biology and Genetics at Wayne State University School of Medicine. 

Drs. Tainsky and Dudas are working collaboratively with Henry Ford Health System, and soon The University of Toledo, to obtain a new and independent validation set of pancreatic patient samples for the confirmation of a diagnostic test. The goal of this ongoing research effort is to take the basic laboratory research and translate its discoveries into a highly accurate, clinically applicable screening test for patients at high risk of pancreas cancer. In addition, the research team has also begun accruing samples to develop a blood test to identify recurrence of pancreatic cancer, employing some of the same autoantibody biomarkers. 

It’s estimated that in 2012, there will be approximately 44,000 new cases of pancreatic cancer in the United States. It is the ninth most commonly occurring cancer in the nation and the fourth leading cause of cancer-related deaths. The 5-year survival rate for pancreatic cancer is only 6%, primarily due to late-stage diagnosis. For patients diagnosed with advanced-stage pancreatic cancer, curative intervention is unlikely, resulting in approximately 37,000 cancer-related deaths this year. However, when discovered at an early stage, the curative rate for pancreatic cancer increases dramatically through the usage of surgical resection and chemotherapy.  Being able to have an early-detection screening test for pancreatic cancer will significantly help save lives.  

Kasselman was recognized with Karmanos Cancer Institute’s Pat Milner Sachs Heart of a Survivor Award in 2011 for her compassion, dedication and drive to raise awareness of pancreatic cancer and funds to advance cancer research. 

“When you’re diagnosed with cancer you’re either paralyzed with fear or you take the opportunity to make a difference with the cards you’ve been dealt,” said Kasselman. “With all that I’ve been through in my life, I believe this is my ‘finest hour’ and I feel grateful that I’m able to do what I can to raise awareness of pancreatic cancer and work toward saving lives.”

For more information on pancreatic cancer or other cancer-related services, or to help support cancer research, contact the Karmanos Cancer Institute at 1-800-KARMANOS (1-800-527-6266.)

The recent check presentation included several representatives from the Karmanos Cancer Institute. From left are Michael Tainsky, Ph.D., project lead researcher; Nick Karmanos, senior vice president, Institutional Relations; Sky Foundation Trustees Niki Gallaudet and Bill Powers;  Sheila Kasselman, founder and president, Sky Foundation; Gerold Bepler, M.D., Ph.D., president and CEO, Karmanos; Steve Dudas, Ph.D., project leader, Karmanos; and Lynn Fisher, senior director. Major Gifts Program, Karmanos. 

Sheila Kasselman with Rod Meloni, business editor for Local 4 WDIV who served as emcee for this year’s Sky Foundation, Inc., fundraiser. 

Dan Glosser, Sky Foundation supporter, Sheila Kasselman, and Michael Tainsky, Ph.D., from the Karmanos Cancer Institute who is lead researcher for the pancreatic cancer project. 

Karmanos Cancer Institute gastrointestinal and neuroendocrine tumor oncologists attending the Sky Foundation’s event were (from left) Philip Philip, M.D., Ph.D., F.R.C.P., and his wife Viva; and Anthony Shields, M.D., Ph.D. 

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