New Castle News

June 28, 2013

Cancer awareness tribute to honor Slamon

Debbie Wachter
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — Dr. Dennis Slamon’s cancer research efforts will be recognized for years to come with a monument at New Castle High.

Members of Par for the Cure, a nonprofit breast cancer fund-raising and support organization, approached the New Castle Area school board last month, requesting a spot on high school grounds to establish the Dr. Dennis Slamon Cancer Awareness Memorial. The monument will include a tree planting and selling bricks that will surround the area to remember those who have lost their battle with cancer, and to recognize those who are survivors.

The school board gave its blessing for the project at its June meeting.

Dr. Slamon, a 1966 graduate of New Castle High School, and his colleagues conducted the laboratory and clinical research that led to the development of Herceptin, which targets a genetic alteration found in about 25 percent of breast cancer patients. Herceptin was approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration in September 1998 and was the first in a wave of new treatments targeting genetic mutations that cause cells to become malignant.

Slamon serves as director of the Revlon/UCLA Women’s Cancer Research Program at UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center. He also is a professor of medicine and chief of the UCLA Department of Medicine’s Division of Hematology/Oncology and its executive vice chair.

Joann Esposito and her husband, Andy, who with their son, Brian J. Esposito head up the Par for the Cure, attended the school board meeting to express their appreciation for the board’s approving  the Slamon Dedication Circle, which is Brian’s project in honor of his mother.

Par for the Cure has been raising funds for nine years, and its goal this year is topping its $1 million mark in funds it has raised so far for Slamon’s research.

“We are $55,000 away,” said Joann, who continues to fight her own continuous battle with cancer.  “We will hit that without a problem.”

The monument as planned will include JoAnn’s Tree of Courage in her name, and the Dr. Dennis Slamon Circle of life, bricks that will surround the tree and can be bought in the name of a loved one who has or is battling cancer.

A Courage of Life Award will become an annual award for someone from New Castle who has fought cancer and has been an instrumental part of Par for the Cure. The award includes a trip to Las Vegas or UCLA.

The organization is sponsoring a booth at Back to the Fifties this weekend at Cascade Park, selling homemade cookies, roses, note cards, Par for the Cure merchandise, coffee, water, lunch totes and chances to win a basket.

The group also is running the parking there for donations.

An annual Par for the Cure golf tournament in Las Vegas also is another of its bigger fundraising efforts, along with a local concert each spring in New Castle showcasing New Castle talents.

According to JoAnn Esposito, the committee members plan to meet with New Castle administrators in the near future to decide on where, exactly, the monument to Dr. Slamon will be located on the high school grounds.