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Fundraisers for brain cancer research planned

4/24/2014 - West Side Leader
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By Maria Lindsay

Peninsula resident Joe Blanda, a senior at Western Reserve Academy, is shown above during a soccer game and below right after brain surgery. The student is helping to organize fundraisers for brain tumor research.
Photos courtesy of the Blanda family
PENINSULA — A Peninsula student is fighting brain cancer by spurring support for brain tumor research.

Joe Blanda, a junior at Western Reserve Academy, was diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme during a routine CT scan he received after getting a concussion playing soccer in October 2012, according to his father, Dr. Joseph Blanda, an orthopedic surgeon. The diagnosis was followed by a nine-hour brain surgery, six weeks of radiation treatments and ongoing chemotherapy. The multiple medications Joe took had harrowing side effects, and daily brain radiation left him nauseated, weakened and bedridden for days, he said.

But today, 18 months later, Joe is completing his senior year and plans to attend John Carroll University in the fall.

After a research study for him and 21 others across the country was canceled due to a lack of funding, and due to his experience with treatments, Joe asked his parents to organize a foundation to raise money for brain cancer research.

“We must make it easier for the next kid who has to face this beast,” said Joe. “It takes more than hope. It is up to us to raise money and make a difference.”

In 2013, Joseph Blanda and his wife, Dr. Michelle Blanda, an emergency medicine physician, responded and founded, with assistance from some friends, Blast Glioblastoma, a nonprofit organization seeking to raise money for brain tumor research. The Blandas said they were further motivated to proceed with the initiative when within one year of their son’s diagnosis, glioma tumors affected the families of four other physicians they work with.

Joseph Blanda explains on the website www.blastgbm.com that glioma brain tumors are the second most common cancer and most lethal of cancers affecting people younger than 15. Glioblastoma leaves most patients with a short life expectancy, and over the past 15 years, treatment advancements have not improved life expectancy by more than four months, he said.

Joseph Blanda said there is not a lot of research on brain tumors because “pharmaceutical companies do not see this as a money maker because of the life expectancy.”

“Private sector money is needed to support research,” he said. “By helping people understand the urgent need for funding promising new treatments, we hope to contribute to the medical community’s immediate goal: extending the lives of those afflicted by brain tumors, as well as improving their current quality of life.”

Several events have been planned to help raise funds for research on brain tumors.

A sold-out fundraising dinner with live and silent auctions is planned for May 3 at Fairlawn Country Club. The guest speaker will be Dr. Michael Vogelbaum, a neurosurgeon from the Cleveland Clinic and a leading physician in brain cancer research in the country. According to Joseph Blanda, sponsors for the fundraising dinner to date include: Academic and Community Emergency Specialists, the Center for Neuro and Spine, Crystal Clinic Orthopedic Center, Akron General Medical Center, Blanda Orthopedics and Western Reserve Hospital Partners.

While the dinner is sold out, the public is invited to participate in a 5K run, fun walk and wellness expo May 4 at Western Reserve Academy, 115 College St. in Hudson. The run will start at 9:30 a.m., and the walk will begin at 9 a.m. Runners can participate in a noncompetitive 5K run on the cross country course or use the padded track. Walkers will be able to enjoy a course through the campus.

The cost of the run is $30 per person; the cost of the walk is $30 per person or $50 for a family.

The walk and run will be followed by a wellness exposition that will offer information on a variety of health and fitness topics, such as healthy food, supplements, cancer support groups and more.

“This is a form of public awareness to educate people about what they can do to avoid cancer,” said Joseph Blanda.

Registration and payment for the walk/run is available at www.blastgbm.com.

A golf outing and other fundraising events are planned for later this year, according to Joseph Blanda.

He said the foundation hopes to raise $300,000 for research toward new treatments on brain tumors through these events. He added that a panel of medical experts will make awards for research, and the goal is to keep the awards in Northeast Ohio, when possible.

For more information, or to make a donation, visit the website.

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