The 2021 Herd of Hope Team Research Grant

The 2021 Herd of Hope Grant research team poses together.

The 2021 Herd of Hope Team Science Research Award

Individual and corporate partners throughout Western New York have banded together to rally behind team research projects with the potential to save lives since 2018. The Herd’s signature blue buffalos have been multiplying in the last four years, paving the way for a third grant to propel cancer science forward at Roswell Park.

The 2021 Herd of Hope grant will drive forward a project led by Richard O’Connor, PhD, Professor of Oncology in Roswell Park’s Department of Health Behavior. The study will investigate links between tobacco use, cancer and consumer perceptions of the intersection of the two.

“Emerging issues at the intersection of tobacco regulatory science and cancer prevention”

Tobacco use, particularly cigarette smoking, remains the single largest preventable contributor to cancer. It is strongly associated with lung cancer but can also lead to oral cancers, which is concerning given new oral nicotine products marketed by the tobacco industry. Dr. O’Connor’s team will investigate:

  1. Consumer perceptions of new oral nicotine products;
  2. Potential health effects of oral nicotine products; and
  3. How community dental professionals talk to their patients about tobacco and nicotine use and arm professionals with the information gathered in the first two studies.

“As these new oral nicotine products are introduced and use increases, we need to better understand what effects, if any, they have on cancer risk, given what we already know about cancer risks associated with smoking,” Dr. O’Connor said. “We’ve taken this team approach so that we can get perspectives on these questions from different disciplines.”

Dr. O’Connor and his team are looking to the future.

“We hope to generate some important preliminary information about what consumers think about these products and what their oral health effects are, so that we can design better studies moving forward to conduct deeper, more impactful assessment of these emerging products.”

Investigators and key personnel:

Richard O’Connor, PhD, Professor of Oncology, Department of Health Behavior

Maciej Goniewicz, PhD, PharmD, Professor of Oncology, Department of Health Behavior

Maansi Bansal-Travers, PhD, Associate Professor of Oncology, Department of Health Behavior

Pamela Hershberger, PhD, Associate Professor of Oncology, Department of Pharmacology & Therapeutics

Nicolas Schlecht, PhD, Professor of Oncology, Department of Cancer Prevention & Control

Nicholas Felicione, PhD HRI Scientist, Department of Health Behavior

Liane Schneller, PhD HRI Scientist, Department of Health Behavior

© 2018 Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center

Lake Shore Savings Bank joins the Herd

Lake Shore Savings Bank joins the Herd

Lake Shore Savings has been serving the Western New York community for over 130 years. Dan Reininga, President and CEO, knows that the heart of Lake Shore Savings Bank is the community, and now they are proud members of the Herd of Hope.

“Our goal is putting people first, and that means helping our customers, energizing our employees, respecting our shareholders, and serving the community of our region,” he said.

Dan has lost several loved ones to cancer, but he knows his story is not unique.

“A dear friend of the family was diagnosed with melanoma, five and one-half years ago. Shortly after his diagnosis, the cancer just ravaged his body, and unfortunately, he didn’t make it past age 30,” Dan recalls with grief in his voice. “He was like a son to me.”

Dan continues, “Cancer won’t stop stealing lives unless we fight back together. Lake Shore Savings Bank joined the Herd to give cancer the end it deserves. Many larger companies are driven by increasing the bottom line and shareholder return. Our shareholder return is enhanced by giving back to our community.”

Lake Shore Savings Bank decided to donate to Roswell Park “to show appreciation to our team members who are currently being challenged with cancer and to honor them.”

If you are wondering why you should join the Herd of Hope, Dan explains, “There is strength in numbers. If you’re in a stampede, with a large number of buffalo, or a large number of corporations supporting fundraising efforts, you can accomplish great things regardless of the size of the donation. There are big buffaloes, little buffaloes, but when buffaloes run – you better be out of the way!”

Get in the stampede. Your support will save lives. “It’s the understanding that we have the opportunity to be a part of a community that is part of a Herd.” Herds stay together and their impact is undeniable.

You can trust your donation to Roswell Park.

“When you look at services throughout the world. Roswell Park is one of those pinnacle service providers, with respect to research and the treatment of cancers – it’s world-renowned.” Joining the Herd of Hope can ensure the City of Good Neighbors, which Buffalo is lovingly called, leaves a global impact on cancer research and care through Roswell Park. 

Join Lake Shore Savings Bank in the Herd of Hope.

Every blue buffalo gets Roswell Park one step closer to finding  a cure for many types of cancer. “It’s very important to have such an awesome, international, and globally recognized center of excellence in Western New York.”

 

Join Lake ShorE Savings BANK and over 100 other WNY businesses by joining the Herd today!

General Mills dedicates joining the Herd to all families affected by cancer

General Mills dedicates joining the Herd to all families affected by cancer

General Mills has been a part of the Western New York Community for 118 years. And if you’re ever driving through the city on a warm day, with your windows down, you might just get a reminder that they’re here with the smell of Cheerios. Ron Gottstine, the Senior Project Engineer at General Mills, and his father, Raymond, have worked collectively for General Mills for 80 of those years. Ron learned at a young age from his father, a hardworking man, “who lived and breathed General Mills” that community is the most important part of any strong organization.

Unfortunately, not unfamiliar to many of us, Ron lost his father to a difficult battle with leukemia in 1995 Ron was with his father every step of the way of his long battle. “I was always amazed at how Roswell Park employees can take care of people, day after day, after day, after day. Even when my father passed away, there were two nurses there. I still remember their names. They were sitting there, crying as my father passed away, which was pretty amazing,” Ron remembered.

Years later, in conversation with a good friend who was closely involved with Roswell Park, Ron learned about the Herd of Hope which was created to build awareness of the research taking place at Roswell Park as well as raise funds to make a significant difference in the fight against cancer. “The people of Roswell Park are our neighbors; they are part of our family,” said Ron.

"I was always amazed at how Roswell Park employees can take care of people, day after day, after day, after day."

General Mills has an espoused mission to connect smart people to make all of our lives a little better. “It affects all of our families. The more we can do to alleviate the burden and to help minimize the people being diagnosed with cancer, and the effect on their families, is better for all. I’ve got to believe that every person who enters our doors [at General Mills] has some sort of connection to Roswell Park, and I believe they can think back and say this is a good cause. I’m hoping that everyone had the same positive experience I did when taking my father there.”

Joining the Herd of Hope symbolizes the that we are one step closer to a world without cancer. And General Mills knew they needed to join the Herd to be part of a group that was making significant advancements toward that vision. “I wanted to have a symbol here at our plant, that when people walk by, that is the first thing they see, and they can have a good memory of helping support the cancer cause,” explained Ron. Cancer research cannot advance as quickly as it should without strong partnerships with companies like General Mills.  

“Cancer research is a great cause for this corporation. We ought to be standing behind a fellow family member or a fellow company to help support them,” said Ron. Roswell Park is less than 4 miles away from General Mills’ plant. When asked about the proximity, Ron said, “we are proud of having Roswell Park here. It’s reassuring to know we have such a dedicated team so nearby in our neighborhood.”

Ron along with General Mills Buffalo, wants to dedicate joining the Herd of Hope to all General Mills employees that have walked through Roswell’s doors, including his beloved father, Raymond. Join General Mills and over 100 other WNY businesses by joining the Herd today.

"Cancer research is a great cause for this corporation. We ought to be standing behind a fellow family member or a fellow company to help support them."

“Cancer research is a great cause for this corporation. We ought to be standing behind a fellow family member or a fellow company to help support them,” said Ron. Roswell Park is less than 4 miles away from General Mills’ plant. When asked about the proximity, Ron said, “we are proud of having Roswell Park here. It’s reassuring to know we have such a dedicated team so nearby in our neighborhood.”

Ron along with General Mills Buffalo, wants to dedicate joining the Herd of Hope to all General Mills employees that have walked through Roswell’s doors, including his beloved father, Raymond. Join General Mills and over 100 other WNY businesses by joining the Herd today.

Join General Mills and over 100 other WNY businesses by joining the Herd today!

The 2019 Herd of Hope Team Science Research Award

The 2019 Herd of Hope Team Science Research Award

How might the stress of a cancer diagnosis affect the health of our patients, their treatment outcomes and the well-being of caregivers? How can we help patients manage stress or counter its effects? That’s what Christine Ambrosone, PhD, Elizabeth Bouchard, PhD, Betsy Repasky, PhD, and the rest of the team that received the 2019 Herd of Hope Team Science Award want to find out.

 

Herd of Hope brings the Western New York community together in pursuit of the next big cancer breakthrough. Individuals and companies can purchase a blue buffalo statue to display as a sign of their commitment to Roswell Park and to helping save lives through the kind of cutting-edge cancer research possible only at an NCI-designated comprehensive cancer center.

In late 2019, Roswell Park researchers competed for the $500,000 prize funding a project with the potential to impact the way we diagnose, prevent and treat cancer. Following a competitive review by a committee of scientific leaders, the project headed by Dr. Ambrosone was chosen for this community-driven grant.

“An Interdisciplinary Approach to Understanding How Stress Affects the Cancer-Immune Equilibrium and Patient Outcomes”

This study will comprise four projects investigating different aspects of the connection between stress and cancer. The researchers’ goal is a grant from the National Cancer Institute to establish a Center of Excellence in Stress Research at Roswell Park. This goal would not be possible without this initial funding from donors. The projects include:

  1. Investigating interactions between chronic stress, the way tumors develop, and the role of the immune system in survival outcomes.
  2. An analysis of how racial background may be influencing the immune response in the tumor microenvironment.
  3. Exploring the roles of various stressors on cancer patients and their caregivers as well as how both adapt to stress.
  4. Determining how stress is influencing the efficacy of immunotherapies and whether interventions to reduce stress improve efficacy.

In one of the studies, the team is conducting a pilot study to assess the feasibility of mindfulness meditation for cancer patients, survivors and caregivers. This will form the foundation for a larger study to understand if mindfulness meditation can improve stress-related outcomes — including on the immune response — among cancer patients and their caregivers.

“Our team is grateful to members of the WNY community for contributing to this award, which will allow us to build the capacity to conduct research studying how stressors can affect cancer growth and progression,” says Dr. Ambrosone. “Bringing together scientists from different disciplines, including immunology, cell stress, sociology, epidemiology and physical therapy, our team science approach will hopefully broaden our understanding of how stress can affect patient outcomes and, importantly, how we may intervene to reduce stress responses in patients.

“We believe that this ‘it takes a herd’ approach will allow us to develop psychological, behavioral, immunological and pharmacological strategies to reduce adrenergic stress and assess how these strategies affect patient outcomes and survivorship.”

The leaders of the 2019 Herd of Hope team science project are:

Christine Ambrosone, PhD, Roswell Park Alliance Foundation Endowed Chair in Cancer Prevention; Chair, Department of Cancer Prevention and Control

Elizabeth Repasky, PhD, the Dr. William Huebsch Professorship in Immunology, Department of Immunology

Elizabeth Bouchard, PhD, Department of Cancer Prevention and Control

Scott Abrams, PhD, Department of Immunology

Marina Antoch, PhD, Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics

Kristopher Attwood, PhD, Department of Biostatistics and Bioinformatics, Co-Director, Biostatistics and Statistical Genomics Shared Resource

Rikki Cannioto, PhD, Department of Cancer Prevention and Control

Fangyi Gu, PhD, Department of Cancer Prevention and Control

Chi-Chen Hong, PhD, Department of Cancer Prevention and Control

Megan Pailler, PhD, Department of Psychosocial Oncology

Andrew Ray, PT, PhD, Department of Cancer Prevention and Control

Song Yao, PhD, Department of Cancer Prevention and Control

© 2018 Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center

Town of North Collins First Community to Sponsor Herd of Hope

Town of North Collins First Community to Sponsor Herd of Hope

Crystal Cocca: North Collins school district treasurer and town bookkeeper; mother of two; happily married wife; Herd of Hope pioneer.

Crystal would probably never call herself a pioneer, but she is. She’s the first person to rally an entire community around the Herd of Hope blue buffalo in support of cutting-edge cancer research at Roswell Park. But while being a pioneer is great, her goal is to be just the first of many.

The blue buffalo has deeply personal meaning, too. In February of 2018, a routine mammogram led to a diagnosis of breast cancer. Following surgery, six rounds of chemo, 20 radiation treatments and a year of hormone infusions, she’s in remission. Crystal was so grateful for the support from her community in North Collins, New York, that she wanted to do something to show her appreciation. She didn’t want to just throw a party; she wanted something lasting and all-inclusive. What she came up with provided not only that but also the opportunity to support other cancer patients through research at Roswell Park.

“I thought, what visual representation can I have in the community that is inclusive of all people and cancers? So I chose the blue buffalo as being the symbol of everyone — those battling, those surviving, those who have been taken from us. That was the best way I could give back that included everyone and supported research at the same time.”

Crystal drafted a letter with a picture of a Herd of Hope blue buffalo, told her story and invited businesses to help her bring the blue buffalo to their community. “My line was: Our community is small, but our hearts are big. Help me bring a blue buffalo home.” She got a great response from the business community of North Collins, then reached out to her church family and close friends.

Before long, the small town in southern Erie County had its own Herd of Hope blue buffalo. It was unveiled in August and now stands proudly in Marion J Fricano Memorial Town Park for residents and visitors to see. It’s covered in cancer ribbons of many different colors to show the impact the disease has on everyone and the importance of groundbreaking research at Roswell Park.

But Crystal isn’t stopping there.

“My next mission is to challenge the neighboring towns and villages to turn our blue buffalo into as many blue buffaloes as we possibly can. The goal is $25,000. I’d like to find five more communities that will follow North Collins’ lead. We even have a mini blue buffalo to give as incentive to the first town, village or municipality that joins us in the Herd.

“Our community supports Roswell, supports cancer research and supports each other.”

Herd of Hope buffaloes are a symbol of hope, generosity and innovation in Western New York — all of which are characteristics of the award winner. Join our herd today by purchasing your own mini buffalo to support cancer research at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center by visiting herdofhope.org/join.

Kevin Hays Selected for 2019 Herd of Hope Hero Award

Kevin Hays Selected for 2019 Herd of Hope Hero Award

What does it take to be a hero?

In the case of the Herd of Hope Hero Award, a lot of compassion and commitment. The Hero Award seeks to recognize and honor an individual who inspires hope — hope for loved ones, hope for the community, hope for a cure and hope for the future.

The recipient of the 2019 Hero Award is father, husband,
colon cancer survivor and cancer advocate Kevin Hays!

In 2014, Kevin Hays and his wife, Hilary, were enjoying life as new parents to their daughter, Abby. Feeling an ignited sense of responsibility for his health, Kevin decided it was time to do the adult thing and take care of his annual appointments – the doctor, the dentist and a colonoscopy because of a history of polyps. Just routine, he thought. No big deal.

Then he got a call that changed his life. A call with a word he was never anticipating – cancer. He was only 28 years old.

Kevin was shocked but took on the challenge headfirst. After harsh, intense treatment and surgery, and exciting news of a second baby on the way, he was hopeful for the future. He’s had two more recurrences. This time it was stage 4.

But he’s taken the fight into his own hands and brought his journey to the community, getting down to business trying to end cancer.

Now a father of three, Kevin uses his experience with cancer to advocate, educate and motivate others. His biggest goals is to encourage more people in the real estate and construction industry to get screened. Because, he points out, chemo is far, far worse than that one uncomfortable test.

He uses his nonprofit Buffalo Colon Corps and the Blue Hope Hard Hat Initiative as a platform to “break down resistance to screening and encourage young people to pay attention to their bodies and take symptoms seriously,” Kevin says in a blog post he wrote for Roswell Park’s Cancer Talk.

Participants wear branded Blue Hope Hard Hats on job sites around Buffalo during March, which is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, and give toolbox talks about colorectal health and screening at jobsite meetings.

Kevin is also involved with the Undy RunWalk and the Colorectal Cancer Alliance as an engagement committee member for the Buffalo RunWalk and its Blue Bash kickoff party; has been active with Roswell Park’s Young Adults Program; and is an American Cancer Society WNY board member.

When nominations for the Herd of Hope Hero Award opened, Kevin’s aunt, Mary Pasternak, was thrilled to have the opportunity to spotlight Kevin. “He is a HERO to so many! He has taken this awful thing and made it his mission to help others. To know him is to love him,” she says. “It’s hard to quantify the impact he has had on the community, but I know his story has affected so many people. Because of him, more people are aware of the warning signs, more people are getting screened, and more people are donating to and raising critical funds for cancer research.”

Kevin epitomizes the definition of a hero, and that’s
why Kevin is our Herd of Hope Hero Award recipient.

Herd of Hope buffaloes are a symbol of hope, generosity and innovation in Western New York — all of which are characteristics of the award winner. Join our herd today by purchasing your own mini buffalo to support cancer research at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center by visiting herdofhope.org/join.

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Raising Hope

Raising Hope

How Costanzo’s Bakery Inspires Staff and Customers With Its Herd of Hope Buffalo

Costanzo’s Herd of Hope BuffaloThe store’s vestibule and large picture window just called for the big blue buffalo. It was the perfect stage on which to display a symbol of hope.

Costanzo’s Bakery is just one of the many members of the Herd of Hope. As a sponsor, they received a dazzlingly blue buffalo to display at their store. Once staff got it situated, CEO Angelo Costanzo III thought it called for a selfie. And once he had snapped that first picture with the buffalo, one thing seemed obvious: Lots of other people working in or visiting the Cheektowaga store would want to do the same.

They set out a white board for staff and customers to write their tributes on — honoring a loved one, a colleague, themselves, someone they’ve lost — and cancer site ribbon magnets to stick to the white board. Then they let the selfies commence.

It has really engaged Costanzo’s employees, and customers love it, too. Not only did the selfie station encourage employees and customers to take a moment to honor or remember someone affected by cancer, but it also served as a reminder that we are all part of a larger group that is committed to finding a cure for cancer.

Costanzo’s Employees took pictures with the Herd of Hope Buffalo“Employees have really rallied around it. That’s important to us,” says Lori Ferraraccio, Vice President, Talent and Operations Development. “We feel that wherever you have an opportunity, whether individually or as a corporate citizen, you should give back. That’s what’s most important to Costanzo’s. We’re not in this for the publicity. We’re in it because we truly believe that Roswell is like Costanzo’s: a Western New York tradition. And we’re lucky in both regards to have those in our backyards.”

CEO Costanzo says: “One small way we can give back to the community is what really matters to Costanzo’s.”

Has your company sponsored a blue buffalo yet? How could it use one to unite staff and inspire customers? Learn more about sponsoring a buffalo.

Costanzo’s Employees took pictures with the Herd of Hope Buffalo

Herd of Hope Awards a Half-Million Dollars to Winning “Team Science” Research Project

Herd of Hope Awards a Half-Million Dollars to Winning "Team Science" Research Project

How do we find the next big cancer breakthrough? First, by working together.

In pursuit of that next great discovery, this year Roswell Park enlisted the help of the local business community by launching the Herd of Hope. Each company that joined the Herd through a $5,000 sponsorship received a shiny blue buffalo to display at its location, showing the community its commitment to the Roswell Park mission.

More than 100 blue buffalos now can be spotted grazing around WNY, and today more than $500,000 has been raised for our first-of-its-kind “team science” award at Roswell Park.

Under this team science, more than 40 researchers and scientists came together to form multidisciplinary teams that developed and submitted projects they hoped would be chosen for the half-million-dollar grant. Each team’s project addresses prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer and includes the launch of at least one clinical study to test a novel treatment strategy for cancer patients.

Following review by a committee of scientific leaders, three projects were identified as finalists.

The team selected for the $500,000 award is led by David Goodrich, PhD, Professor of Oncology, and includes Pamela Hershberger, PhD, Associate Professor of Oncology; Erik Knudsen, PhD, PhD, Chair, Molecular and Cellular Biology; and Steven Pruitt, Professor of Oncology. 

Their project, “Improving Cancer Therapy by Countering Mechanisms of Resistance,” seeks to discover therapies that will prevent cancer relapse. While many cancer therapies work well at first, cancers often become resistant to the same treatments upon recurrence. This study will focus on understanding how tumors resist treatment and how certain defects in patient tumors can be exploited to overcome this resistance.

“It’s such an honor to be the team chosen to receive this grant because all of the finalists’ projects hold great promise,” says Dr. Goodrich. “My colleagues and I are eager to get started on our investigation and are incredibly grateful to every business that purchased a blue buffalo. They showed tremendous support for the promise of a new discovery and, most importantly, for the patients whose lives we hope to save.”

Teams began by submitting initial letters of intent. The three finalists were then invited to submit a full application. The winning team was announced by Roswell Park President and CEO Candace S. Johnson, PhD, at a sponsor reception on December 12. The campaign was chaired by longtime Roswell Park supporter Bill Loecher.

Kathleen Theal, a Roswell Park patient who has been battling ovarian cancer since 2004, spoke at the event and thanked the sponsors and researchers for giving hope to all who face cancer. “Researchers and donors are the unsung heroes in a cancer patient’s journey, because we don’t often have an opportunity to see you and talk to you. It is the donors that provide the funds that make it possible for researchers to develop new treatments and clinical trials that hopefully will eradicate not only specific cancers, but all cancers in the very near future.”

We know a cure is out there. The collaboration created by the Herd of Hope will bring us a few blue-footed steps closer.

Cancer knows how to put up a fight. The Herd of Hope is pushing back.

Cancer knows how to put up a fight. The Herd of Hope is pushing back

A caring business community + a talented group of cancer experts = a recipe for making serious headway in the fight against cancer: the Herd of Hope.

97 blue buffaloes later, nearly a half-million dollars have been raised to support a first-of-its-kind Team Science research project at Roswell Park. Several multidisciplinary teams of Roswell Park faculty came together to develop and submit proposals for a grant that will help them pursue innovative ways to approach cancer and develop new treatments; here are the three finalists. December 12, we’ll reveal the final decision!

There’s Still Time to Join!

You can still play a part in the Herd of Hope before our finalist is announced December 12!

Join us now to help fuel this powerful research that could lives from cancer.

Herd of Hope on track to fund a half-million dollar research award

Herd of Hope on track to fund a half-million dollar research award

More than 80 businesses and individuals from across Western New York have sponsored a blue buffalo since the 2018 Herd of Hope kicked off in July, bringing the campaign over 75 percent of its fundraising goal.

This overwhelming outpouring of support puts Herd Hope in position to award a half-million dollar research award to a promising research idea at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center.

More than 40 members from Roswell Park’s clinical and scientific teams – medical oncologists, geneticists, biophysicists, radiation oncologists, molecular biologists and others – have come together to form multidisciplinary teams. These teams, have pooled their knowledge and expertise to submit proposals for studying new and innovative scientific approaches for the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer.

These teams, or Scientific Task Forces, have submitted their collective ideas for a competitive peer review by senior investigators at Roswell Park. The project that is deemed most promising will receive this half-million dollar research award funded by your support. All of the team projects have an ultimate goal of launching a clinical study that would bring a new therapy developed at Roswell Park to patients’ bedsides.

The Task Force with the winning research idea will be announced in December.

Sponsorships are still available!

Your company still has time to be a part of this historic effort and support this new research! Join the Herd by sponsoring a blue buffalo today.

© 2018 Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center