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Catwalk for a Cure

Amschwand Sarcoma Cancer Foundation funds groundbreaking program


By Victor Scott

 A recent fashion show takes a sophisticated approach to raising awareness of, and funds for, sarcoma research.

Fashion is glamorous; sarcoma is not. It’s a tagline the Amschwand Sarcoma Cancer Foundation (ASCF) uses when referencing its annual fashion show in Houston: Catwalk for a Cure. Designed to raise awareness and funds, the signature event aims to conquer sarcoma, one of the deadliest of cancers.

“Because it’s rare, sarcoma receives limited research funding,” says foundation president Melissa Amschwand Bellinger, who lost her husband to sarcoma in 2001. “We’re excited that our recent $200,000 donation will help establish a comprehensive sarcoma database and tissue bank at the institution that, once fine-tuned, can be replicated at other centers. We’re proud that the institution is creating the first of its kind. Unlike fashion shows, there’s nothing glamorous about a database and tissue bank, but it’s exciting as it provides us with that essential foundation we need to make progress.”     

The generous gift will contribute significantly to sarcoma research and patient care, says Patrick Hwu, M.D., chair of Sarcoma Medical Oncology.

 Amschwand Sarcoma Cancer Foundation grant recipient Keila Torres, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor in Surgical Oncology, is among guests at the recent fashion show.

“We see more adult and pediatric sarcoma patients in a day than most cancer centers see all year, and we have more than 2,500 tumor tissue samples,” says Hwu. “The knowledge we’re gaining will offer new insights into sarcoma and will lead to better treatment options for sarcoma patients.”

Tom Amschwand was diagnosed with sarcoma in 1999, on the couple’s second wedding anniversary.  He lost his mother to sarcoma in 1995.

“When we looked to get behind a national sarcoma group, we realized there wasn’t one,” says Melissa. “There was no one organization funding sarcoma research, creating awareness and offering support for patients and families. Tom’s vision was to change that.”

For a decade, the foundation’s Catwalk for a Cure has been its primary fundraiser, bringing in more than $2 million of support. Melissa says the event attracts attendees through fashion, but they leave inspired by the foundation’s message.

Learn more about the foundation at www.sarcomacancer.org.

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