(BPT) – “I thought cancer was like dessert – you only got one. I thought wrong,” says Jim Riswold, a two-time cancer survivor and one of the advertising geniuses responsible for some of Nike’s most iconic ads. Fourteen years ago, Riswold was told he had between two to four years to live, but because of a once-a-day pill developed by Dr. Brian Druker, director of OHSU’s Knight Cancer Institute at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU), Jim is now sharing his story through artwork.
His survival was made possible by understanding the biological switch that drove his leukemia. Years later, when Riswold developed prostate cancer, he underwent a disabling surgery, with the cause of his prostate cancer remaining a mystery.
Stories like Riswold’s are the impetus behind the Knight Cancer Challenge, a unique fundraising campaign developed to support OHSU’s world-class research program. The Challenge was started by Nike Co-founder Phil Knight and his wife, Penny, who challenged OHSU to raise $500 million by February 2016. If OHSU meets this goal, the Knights will match the donation for a $1 billion total investment in groundbreaking cancer research.
In 2001, Druker and his team made history when the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first-ever targeted cancer therapy, a once-daily medication for chronic myeloid leukemia. Druker’s research proved it was possible to find the biological switches that drive cancer in the body and turn them off with targeted treatments, leaving healthy cells unharmed. Early detection of these biological switches for all cancers is the natural progression of OHSU’s pioneering work in targeted treatments.
“A better understanding of what fuels cancer will help us detect it when it’s most treatable and attack it with medications that are more effective, increasing the number of cancer survivors,” says Druker, who is also Riswold’s doctor.
Smarter, earlier detection means a better chance for survival. OHSU’s research will focus on catching lethal, fast-spreading cancers when they’re most curable, with the goal of impacting survival rates and reducing the need for systemic, harsh treatments which have long-term side effects for many patients. Further, smarter, earlier detection will help doctors avoid overtreatment. Instead, they will have the knowledge necessary to engage in appropriate treatment when the time is right.
“Even as treatment options have dramatically improved, the detection of cancer has been frozen in time,” Druker says. “We need better tests and tools that can detect subtle changes in the body that signal a lethal cancer is developing. This is the single most important unmet need in cancer care today and key to saving more lives.”
“A research program like OHSU’s takes hope and turns it into science, not emotion,” says Riswold, whose latest show, Art for Oncologists, pays tribute to the medication, doctors and even animals that help fight cancer. “We need to continue to invest in science and the researchers that make it possible. Long live oncologists; longer live their mice; longest live their patients.”
As you make your end-of-year donations or choose organizations you will support in 2015, consider being part of OHSU’s historic program that’s changing the way the world understands cancer. OHSU has raised nearly 90 percent of its goal, but additional donations ensure this program becomes a reality.
Learn more, donate, and track progress at onedown.org.