Roughriders alumni fight child cancer

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A hardy group braved the Saturday cold to gather in Wascana Park.

“It’s nothing compared to what those kids are going through,” Former Roughrider Dan Rashovich said.

More than a dozen Roughriders alumni were among those supporting the second Believe in the Gold run, which raises money for children battling cancer in Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia.

45 per cent of the money raised will support local families, while another half goes toward the research of Dr. Douglas Mahoney at the Calgary Children’s Hospital.

Mahoney has been focusing his research on immunotherapy, an emerging field in the global fight against cancer. Mahoney’s lab recently discovered an immunotherapy that uses existing cancer drugs differently.

“What we found is a combination of cancer therapies that complement each other in helping the immune system clear the cancer,” Mahoney said. “Our results suggest that we’ve been looking at these cancer drugs the wrong way – as tumour-targeting drugs – instead of what we now feel is their most important biological role: as immune stimulating therapy.”

The campaign was inspired by founder Shonalie Biafore’s daughter Jacey, who passed away in 2012 after battling sarcoma.

“She didn’t understand why people didn’t know more about childhood cancer,” Biafore recalled. “Then we found out four per cent of research dollars goes to that, which is really sad. Her treatment was 50 years old. It was actually the same treatment Terry Fox had had.”

Event chair Rashovich is also no stranger to the disease.

His son, Nolan, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in 2016.

“Chemo, radiation, those are tough treatments. I can’t even imagine what it would feel like,” Rashovich said. “I look at my own son and how hard it is on their bodies. It brings a tear to your eye. They’re so resilient.”

Rashovich hopes to see other CFL alumni associations pick up the initiative in the future.

While this year’s totals haven’t been finalized, the 2017 event raised enough money to support 26 Saskatchewan families.

Mahoney hopes to know more about the impact of immunotherapy in the next five years. According to the University of Calgary, his lab is one of three in the world looking at this immunotherapy combination.

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