“Tie the Ribbons” for breast and ovarian cancer awareness

Mark your calendars for the second annual Tie the Ribbons luncheon on Thursday, September 30 at the Jackson Center.  This unique event highlights both ovarian and breast cancers.  Combined, these diseases claim the lives of more than 55,000 women every year.


Teal is the nationally recognized ribbon color for ovarian cancer just as pink is the recognized ribbon color for breast cancer. At the luncheon, the two are “tied” together in an effort to raise awareness and research funds for both diseases.   


Dr. K-T Varley, a postdoctoral fellow at HudsonAlpha, will speak about ovarian and breast cancer research she and others are conducting at the institute. Their research involves identifying changes that occur in the genome when a normal cell turns into a cancer cell.


Their goal is to understand why cancers form, why some cancers are more aggressive than others, and why some cancers respond to certain treatments while others are resistant.


Varley and Dr. Richard Myers, president and director of HudsonAlpha, are collaborating with researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Comprehensive Cancer Center to apply state-of-the-art genomics technologies to breast cancer clinical trials.  They are trying to identify genomic changes in the patients’ tumors that predict response to specific chemotherapy treatments.  The goal is to be able to test for genomic defects in a patient’s breast tumor, and then use this information to choose the most effective treatment for his or her particular cancer.


Varley will also address Dr. Devin Absher’s efforts. Absher, a HudsonAlpha investigator, discovered chromosomal deletions and duplications that occur during the formation of ovarian cancers.  He is working with a nationwide consortium of scientists to understand the consequences of these changes in ovarian cancers.  


Attendees will also hear from cancer survivors.


Leslie Vallely will share her personal battle against breast cancer.  She was diagnosed shortly after she turned 40 in 1999.  "I had not even had my first mammogram yet," she explained.  Vallely detected a lump during a self-breast exam.  "I did chemo, radiation, I did it all." 


More than 10 years later, she remains cancer-free and is now the communications director for Clearview Cancer Institute, working for the oncologists who once treated her.


Susan Leighton is an ovarian cancer survivor and will explain how the disease changed her life.  She was first diagnosed in 1997, went into remission later that year, and had a recurrence in 2005.


Leighton, 61, has learned that every day is a gift, with or without cancer. She has been cancer-free for more than five years. “The true meaning of hope for me as a cancer patient is that research will continue until a detection test or cure is found, if not in my lifetime, in the lifetime of those women who come behind me.”


This year, Tie the Ribbons is sponsored by First Commercial Bank and the Jackson Center.  WHNT News 19 is the media sponsor.  The event is held in partnership with Lilies of the Valley, Bosom Buddies and the Alpha Foundation. Proceeds will benefit ovarian and breast cancer research at the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology.  If you are interested in attending, you can click here for registration information.