January 2011 Archives

By Lana Maciel, MD Anderson Staff Writer

turmericOne of the keys to tumor suppression could possibly lie in the Indian spice turmeric. Often used in curry dishes, it is commonly known as "Indian solid gold" for its proven health benefits.

Various scientific studies have shown that the yellow compound in turmeric, curcumin, contains potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. These can inhibit tumor cell growth and suppress enzymes that activate carcinogens.

In fact, a small Phase II study at MD Anderson in 2008 indicated that in patients with pancreatic cancer, daily dosage of curcumin without chemotherapy helped slow tumor growth in some patients and reduced the size of a tumor in one patient.

Bharat Aggarwal, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Experimental Therapeutics, continues to conduct and analyze a number of studies that focus on the effects of curcumin on cancer. He says he believes it is effective on all forms of the disease due to its suppression of angiogenesis (blood vessel growth) of tumor cells.

"No cancer has been found, to my knowledge, which is not affected by curcumin," Aggarwal says. "The reason curcumin is so effective against cancer is that it hits not just a single target or cell signaling pathway but dozens of targets implicated in cancer."

In addition to these scientific findings, the cancer rate in South Asia makes an even stronger case for the cancer-fighting benefits of turmeric. It is used regularly in culinary dishes of this region.

"The incidence of the top four cancers in the United States-- colon, breast, prostate and lung -- is 10 times lower in India," Aggarwal says.

Incorporate turmeric into your daily diet
Used as a primary ingredient in many Indian, Persian, Thai and Malay dishes, turmeric pairs well with garlic, citrus, coriander and cumin. You, too, can reap the benefits of this spice by using it in your daily cooking.

For starters, try the following recipe, courtesy of Aggarwal, as a great side dish for a healthy curried chicken dish.

Vegetables With Turmeric

•    3 tablespoons olive oil
•    1 teaspoon turmeric
•    ¼ teaspoon red chili powder
•    ½ teaspoon salt
•    ½ teaspoon cumin
•    ½ teaspoon coriander powder
•    ½ teaspoon pomegranate seeds
•    ½ teaspoon mango powder
•    Sliced vegetables such as potatoes, cauliflower, carrots, etc.
•    Sliced onions, ginger and tomatoes

1. In a small bowl, mix together salt, turmeric, red chili, cumin and coriander powders.

2. On a stovetop, heat the olive oil in a pan. First roast onions and ginger and then add vegetables and spice mix together in the pan and stir until vegetables are coated in spices.

3. Allow vegetables to simmer on low heat for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

4. Turn off the heat, sprinkle with sliced tomatoes, pomegranate seeds and mango powder and enjoy.

These were Maha Kalaji's first words to a family friend physician the morning after she found a lump in her breast during a self-exam. A mammogram later, she was flying from her home in Amman, Jordan, to the United Kingdom, where she was raised, to consult with physicians. One of those physicians recommended The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center for treatment.

With the help of two of her brothers who lived in Houston; she was at MD Anderson within a week. That was in 1993.

"I never associated having cancer with death," Kalaji explains. "I consider myself lucky. Cancer has changed my life, it's made me more realistic and more appreciative. Every day I wake up and am grateful for so many things."

Following chemotherapy, a lumpectomy and radiation therapy for her breast cancer, MD Anderson physicians found cancer in her liver in 1999. Since then, Kalaji has alternated between hormone therapy and chemotherapy to combat the liver cancer. That is until 2009, when surgeons removed 60% of her liver in the hope that it would eliminate the cancer. It did not, and within four months the cancer had returned.

Kalaji continues to visit MD Anderson every three months for check-ups and expects to continue her alternating hormone therapy and chemotherapy for the foreseeable future.

But cancer is only a small piece of Kalaji's story. She continues to reside in Amman, where she is the protocol officer for the United States Embassy.

Sharing her journey
In addition to her role with the embassy, Kalaji has taken on the mantle of educator, most notably through the recent release of her book, "Journey of Confrontation." Currently the book is available in Arabic, with an English version slated for release some time this summer. One of her main objectives with the book is informing patients in the Middle East about what it is like to have cancer.

"I met women who were receiving chemotherapy at King Hussein Cancer Center who did not know why they were there, because their families did not tell them," Kalaji recounts. "I think knowing what is going to happen to you ... what the side effects of chemotherapy are and how it is going to affect you, is important."

Kalaji's book is a sort of chronicle of what it's like to be a cancer patient, taking the reader step by step through procedures and stages of treatment. MD Anderson plays a role in the book and in how Kalaji approaches her cancer. As does the fact that MD Anderson and King Hussein Cancer Center in Amman, which acts as her second hospital, are sister institutions -- a result of initiatives by MD Anderson's Global Academic Programs in the Center for Global Oncology.

Working together
"It's such a wonderful thing that MD Anderson and KHCC are sister institutions. Both my doctors see eye to eye and they negotiate my treatment before it takes place." An additional partnership Kalaji highlights as important is the International Center and representatives like Eliane Sayeghe, who visited Jordan for Kalaji's book launch and has been her liaison at MD Anderson for many years.

"I remember when I found out MD Anderson had an International Office. I remember thinking that I was in the right place," Kalaji recalls. "They just make life so easy for the patient. Whether I am having trouble with my schedule or contacting a nurse, they are available 24 hours a day to help."

Ultimately, Kalaji, who lost both parents to cancer, hopes her experience will help others understand cancer and the personal changes that occur with the disease. With her book already sold out in Jordan and a second printing ordered, she believes she is reaching people -- patients and non-patients alike. In the meantime, she remains an MD Anderson patient.

Audience at Maha book signing"MD Anderson gave me the confidence to write this book. The personal relationship I have with my doctor, the fact that MD Anderson encourages patients to participate in their treatment, that they are always presenting options, these things all gave me the confidence to write the book," Kalaji explains. "At MD Anderson, I don't feel like I am a number."

All proceeds from her book will benefit the King Hussein Cancer Center.

By Jeannette Kolarik, L.M.S.W., and Amy LaMarca Lyon, L.C.S.W.

Parents diagnosed with cancer face unique challenges. One of these is maintaining the roles and duties of a parent, in addition to new responsibilities that come with cancer treatment.

Raising and caring for children requires time and energy. You're responsible for meeting your own needs and the needs of your children through your cancer journey.

During cancer treatment, you, as a parent, may find that maintaining your role can be most challenging. Treatments are often time-consuming and must be administered at the hospital or doctor's office, decreasing the amount of time you have to spend at home.

Side effects from treatment, such as nausea, vomiting, fatigue or post-operative recovery can sometimes be debilitating or diminish your energy levels. That makes it difficult to keep up with the high-energy demands that parenting requires.

Some types of treatment may require you to be in the hospital for extended periods of time, and contact with other adults and your own children may be restricted to ensure your own safety or the safety of others. If you live out of town or out of state, geography may be an issue because of the time spent traveling.

Overcoming barriers
How do you, as a parent, overcome these barriers? It's important for your children's emotional well-being to stay engaged and involved with them while going through cancer treatment. Although your involvement may not be what it once was, there are creative ways to maintain those routine activities and stay engaged.

You may have some routines and activities with your children that can be modified. This can also be an opportunity to begin new routines and start new activities to bond and stay connected with your children.

For many families, bedtime routines are common. Perhaps part of your nightly routine is to read a bedtime story with your child. For those traveling to MD Anderson for cancer care, this may mean you are not available for those bedtime routines. 

Here are a few ideas of how to modify those routines:

  • Make audio recordings of yourself reading a few of your child's favorite bedtime stories and have another adult help your child set that up each night before bed.

  • Bring your laptop and read their favorite story via video chat each evening.

  • Plan a phone date and read to them over the phone.

Seek support
It's helpful to let your nursing staff know this is a priority for you, so they can best accommodate the needs of you and your family. 

In the Parent Support Group (part of the CLIMB® program) at MD Anderson, we have parents identify 3-5 activities that they and their children enjoy doing together. Then we explore ways to modify those activities or we brainstorm new activities parents can do with their children. This way, parents can manage good self-care and continue to meet the emotional needs of their children.

Talk with your loved ones or with a social work counselor, bounce ideas off of them and let them help you come up with creative ways to navigate these challenges.

If you're an MD Anderson patient, you can contact your counselor at MD Anderson by calling the Department of Social Work at 713-792-6195.

For more information about the CLIMB Program, visit our website.


After a long and successful career in broadcast journalism in Houston, North Texas and Oklahoma, Judy Overton joined MD Anderson in 2008 as a senior communications specialist. Her husband, Tom, was treated at MD Anderson for renal cancer. He died in April 2007. Judy's occasional posts will cover aspects of the cancer experience from the caregiver's perspective. Read more posts in this series

Tom and I walked into Room 40 of the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) in December 2004, accompanied by Joy, our nurse. Her question, "Which one of you is the patient?" drew a smile from both of us.

Joking aside, we knew Tom was facing his greatest challenge.

Doc1.jpgThe next morning, he would receive his first dose of Interleukin-2 (IL-2), a protein produced by activated T cells in the body, to treat his renal carcinoma.

Two weeks earlier, Tom had visited with his multidisciplinary team to see if his body could tolerate the treatment. First he saw Jean-Bernard Durand, M.D

IL-2 is an excellent drug, Durand said, but there would likely be fluid retention, which might put undo pressure on the heart.

A week later, we arrived at the Melanoma Center for the administration of IL-2. GI medical oncologist Michael Overman, M.D., explained that melanoma and renal carcinoma patients are treated with this biotherapy. In my journal I wrote, "Neurologic problems crop up with IL-2."

The doctor also said Tom would gain a lot of weight, because of the fluid retention, and would feel bloated and short of breath. The remaining kidney could experience detrimental effects as well.

A cheerful Nicholas Papadopoulos, M.D., professor in the Department of Melanoma Medical Oncology, entered the room, and was surprised Tom looked so good. After a quick examination, he announced, "He's solid."

Dr. Papa, as he is affectionately known, told us that Durand had given Tom a good report. He then explained the complicated IL-2 process, and said that Tom should expect 15-25 pounds of fluid retention.

The goal, he said, would be to administer 14 doses. And because there was a chance Tom could suffer a heart attack, he'd be in the ICU for the duration of the treatments.

The prognosis? Just 5% of patients treated with IL-2 experience complete remission.

His next attempt at survival
Back to ICU Room 40. Tom had received a CAT scan a few days earlier, and had also had a catheter placed in his chest for the intravenous treatments.

The first IL-2 drip began the morning of Dec. 14 and lasted 15 minutes. I got to his room before noon. He said, "It apparently worked." Tom looked good, even though he'd only gotten four hours of sleep the night before.

Tom had a second treatment that evening and managed to tolerate seven doses of IL-2 within the next two days. He was extremely bloated, red and short of breath.

Doctors considered giving him one more dose, but because his heart rate was very high, they decided against it. The next day, Tom was moved to Room 926 in the Green Zone.

Next installment: In the wake of the powerful IL-2 treatments, neurological problems do crop up.

Make healthier choices in your 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s
by: Colleen Martin, MD Anderson Staff Writer

Misty Howell was diagnosed with human papillomavirus (HPV) when she was only 16. Ten years later, doctors diagnosed her with cervical cancer.

Misty.jpg"Learning about HPV and its effects really helped me understand what was happening to my body and why," Misty says. Misty also believes that her HPV diagnosis helped her doctors discover and treat her cancer at the earliest possible stage, which ultimately saved her life.

Misty's story offers women an important reminder during Cervical Cancer Awareness Month in January: cancer screening exams save lives.

"Practicing healthy behaviors, like getting a screening exam, is important for all women, regardless of age," says Therese Bevers, M.D., medical directior of MD Anderson's Cancer Prevention Center

Complete Bevers' screening checklist in this month's issue of Focused on Health. Then, take it with you to your next doctor's appointment to start your personalized health plan.

Also in this month's issue, learn about the Pap test, HPV vaccine and HPV testing. Find out how to age-proof your health in your 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s. Plus, our expert will clear up the confusion about menopause and cancer risk.

For more tips on women's health, follow us on Twitter and join our conversations on Facebook.

By Leslie R. Schover, Ph.D.,

Are you a woman whose sex life has suffered since your cancer treatment? If so, you may have had frustrating experiences with trying to get back to normal.

Your doctors and nurses may not have taken the time to talk to you about your sex life during your appointments. Oncology health professionals often worry that they won't have the time to really evaluate a sexual problem in a busy clinic. Worse yet, they may not know exactly how to make things better. As a clinical psychologist, I've spent the past 30 years of my career trying to prevent or treat sexual problems related to cancer and its treatment.

Although we have certainly gotten more comfortable with discussing sexual issues, cancer survivors sadly still have few places to turn for this type of information and support.

As people increasingly turn to the Internet for information about their cancer, I realized that I could reach many more people online than I could with a book or pamphlet. That idea led to the creation of our newest effort. Tendrils: Sexual Renewal after Cancer Treatment is a project funded by the National Cancer Institute as a small business grant. Although I am a professor in the Department of Behavioral Science at MD Anderson, I have a small business partner, Paul Martinetti, M.D., of Digital Science Technologies, L.L.C. The website is our mutual project.

tendrils_logo.jpgTendrils will provide detailed information about why many cancer treatments interfere with women's sexual pleasure and gives users suggestions on:

  • how to get back to having an active sex life if you have stopped having sex during your cancer treatment,
  • how to cope with vaginal dryness and avoid pain during sex, and
  • how to try to recapture your sense of desire and pleasure.

In creating Tendrils, I interviewed 11 women of different ages, ethnic backgrounds and cancer types about their experiences with cancer and factors that may be causing sexual problems.

The "beta" version of Tendrils is being tested in a research trial. If you are having a problem in your sex life and it has been one to five years since you were diagnosed with breast cancer or one of the gynecological cancers (cervix, ovarian, uterine, vulvar, vaginal or fallopian tube), you may be eligible to participate in this study. We are looking for women who have finished their cancer treatment (OK if you are taking hormones) and have been in a sexual relationship with a partner for at least six months.

Participants will begin by filling out a few brief questionnaires on the Tendrils website. Then they have 12 weeks to explore the site on a self-help basis.

Half of the participants will also be chosen randomly to come to MD Anderson during the 12 weeks for three face-to-face visits with a sexual counselor. That means you must live in commuting distance of Houston to effectively participate. We will take care of the cost of parking or local transportation.

At the end of the 12-week treatment period, then again three months and six months later, the women will fill out questionnaires again to track improvements in their sex life.

If you are interested in learning more about the Tendrils study, please contact Pamela Lewis, our senior research coordinator, by e-mail ( or phone 713-745-5535.

For now, women have to qualify for our study to use the Tendrils website. But if our research shows benefits of using the website, we hope to have it ready for use by a wider audience soon.

Meanwhile, MD Anderson is starting to offer more resources for women who have cancer-related sexual problems.

Beginning this month, Andrea Bradford, Ph.D., is providing sexual counseling in our Department of Gynecologic Oncology and Reproductive Medicine. If you are interested in an appointment for sexual counseling call 713-745-4466.

I recently attended an Academy of Cancer Experts (ACE) workshop on "Aligning Leadership for Tomorrow's Team Oncology" in Tokyo, and was impressed by the impact this program is having on a new generation of leaders in the cancer field.

ACE is a leadership training program that emphasizes team building, mentoring and career development, and has been active in Japan for the past four years. It's a partner program to the Japan Team Oncology Program, recently profiled in MD Anderson's Conquest magazine. Co-founded by Naoto Ueno M.D., Ph.D.,professor in the Department of Breast Medical Oncology (@teamoncology on Twitter), it has brought together upcoming stars among Japan's oncology professionals with a view to encouraging creative, group-focused approaches to the cancer problem. "The idea is to create the next generation of oncology leaders," Ueno says.

Several cohorts have gone through the program, developed and led by Janis Apted, associate vice president for faculty development at MD Anderson, and Larry Neiman, senior consultant at Executive Development Group L.L.C. At this workshop, participants from different years came together for further team building and to brainstorm on the programs future.

It was clear to me that a core leadership group had been crafted by this effort, with many members from our sister institutions -- Keio University and St. Luke's International Hospital of Tokyo, as well as the Japanese National Cancer Center. The group is poised to take an active role in its future, as it works on bringing its key insights to other institutions in Japan and perhaps beyond.

Neiman, who also coaches in MD Anderson's Faculty Leadership Academy, commented that he encountered the same issues in both venues. "Some of the problems are exactly the same," he says. The team building skills that are the focus of ACE "aren't skills that are being taught in medical school or graduate school," according to Apted, who underscored the unique value that this program adds.

Another ACE  co-founder, Hideyuki Saya, M.D., Ph.D., professor of gene regulation at Keio University, described the program as having a broad influence. "The people in ACE will instruct the next generation and then we can have a big wave in this country. That is our dream." 

He went on to outline his vision for a global impact of ACE, an initiative in which MD Anderson's Global Academic Programs will enthusiastically engage.

Throughout the year, pediatric cancer patients spend time creating their own unique art designs, using vibrant colors and a steady hand. Upon completion, their designs are featured on a wide variety of stationery and gift items, with sale proceeds supporting patient-focused programs at MD Anderson.

The Children's Art Project Valentine Collection combines each artist's creative gusto with a brand new line of products. For the children, each collection is an opportunity to reveal their exciting work and inspire us with their dedication and spirit.

blackheart_domino.jpgThe "Black Hearts" design, created by Noura, 11, of the United Arab Emirates, is one of the pieces in the current Valentine Collection that is generating a lot of interest. It features pink and red watercolor hearts set against a bold black background. The use of color makes it seem as if the hearts are ready to jump off of the paper. This design can be found on the new iPhone covers and several stationery items.

The Valentine Collection also introduces a new addition to Children's Art Project jewelry line. The "Domino Necklace" is a distinctive piece featuring various heart designs surrounded by crystal accents. Three styles are available including "Black Hearts," "Silver Heart" and "Open Hearts." The artwork on the pieces was developed by Fadila, 10, of Egypt, Taylor, 9, of Alabama, and Noura, who is responsible for the "Black Hearts" artwork.

2010Valentines.jpgAnother popular item is the "Kids Valentine" collection. Each set contains 32 colorful fold-over cards featuring eight designs, complete with a place to write in the name of its lucky recipient. This longtime favorite provides a great overview of the different styles of each child's artwork.

With each new product and collection, the real significance is the young patients who spread optimism and love, and isn't that what Valentine's Day is all about.

Where to find Children's Art Project gifts

Houston shoppers can find items at area grocery stores and other retail establishments, the Children's Art Project Boutique in the Uptown Park Shopping Center and at all four MD Anderson gift shops.

Products are also available online at or by calling 800-231-1580 to place an order or receive a free catalog.

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On Jan. 4, winners of the 2010 Outstanding Research Publication Awards were honored and presented their research at MD Anderson's Hickey Auditorium.

This year's winners, Chia-Hsin Chan, Ph.D. (below, second from right), and Chun-Ju Chang, Ph.D. (right image, center), are members of the Department of Molecular and Cellular Oncology -- but that is not all they have in common. Remarkably, they were both in the same high school class in Taiwan.

Res.Pub.Awards-Dr.Chan.jpg"One day at MD Anderson I attended a journal club and there was my school friend, Chun-Ju -- it was totally unexpected," explained Chan. Chang added, "We didn't recognize each other right away -- it had been a few years since we had seen each other."

Although both attended Taiwan National University (TNU) after graduating from high school, they were at different campuses. Chan continued at TNU for her Ph.D. before joining the lab of Hui-Kuan Lin, Ph.D., at MD Anderson for post-doctoral studies. Chang, who was in the School of Pharmacy at TNU, moved first to UCLA for her Ph.D., and then joined Dr. Mien-Chie Hung's group at MD Anderson in 2010.

Chan won the 2010 Outstanding Research Publication Award supported by the Ernst W. Bertner Memorial Fund for her paper in the May 2010 issue of Nature Cell Biology, "Deciphering the transcription complex critical for RhoA gene expression and cancer metastasis."

Res.Pub.Awards-Dr.Chang.jpgChang won the 2010 Outstanding Research Publication Award supported by the Heath Memorial Fund for her paper, "EZH2 promotes expansion of breast tumor initiating cells through activation of RAF1-β-catenin signaling," accepted for publication by Cancer Cell.

Two Outstanding Research Publication awards are given annually to post-doctoral fellows who were first authors of high-impact papers that were published, or accepted for publication, in the preceding academic year.

The awards are managed by the Odyssey Program at MD Anderson, and the Odyssey Program's Advisory Committee makes the selection -- always a tough task as there are many competitive submissions. The awards are supported by the Ernst W. Bertner Memorial Fund and the Heath Memorial Fund, and we are grateful for their support.

This year, we interviewed the awardees about their backgrounds and their work. 

Chia-Hsin Chan, Ph.D., video interview on YouTube in English

We asked them about what it is like to do research at MD Anderson. One challenge that was discussed by Chan was finding the right mentor in such a large institution. To help with this challenge, the Center for Global Oncology recently deployed a tool called Research Profiles, where you can find our investigators by searching for key concepts.

You can find it here:

 Interviews of Chan and Chang are also available on YouKu in Chinese:
Chia-Hsin Chan, Ph.D.
Chun-Ju Chang, Ph.D. 

By: Katrina Burton, MD Anderson Staff Writer

Bevers_undiagnosed breast.jpgFinding a breast lump can be an alarming experience, but what's most important is the steps taken to evaluate it. Prompt evaluation of any breast concern is critical to early detection of breast cancer. Early detection of breast cancer improves the odds of successful treatment.

The Undiagnosed Breast Clinic at MD Anderson's Cancer Prevention Center (CPC) offers an evaluation of breast concerns. Services include evaluation for:

  • a suspicious lump on the breast;
  • an abnormal mammogram or breast ultrasound; and
  • for those who seek a second opinion about a lump or other breast abnormality.

The process
For most women, the evaluation starts with an exam. After review of any outside imaging, a diagnostic workup is performed. "Roughly 85% of breast lumps found are noncancerous," says Therese Bevers, M.D., medical director in the CPC. "Still, it's important to have any breast lump promptly evaluated."

The novelty of the Undiagnosed Breast Clinic is that most patients receive results by the end of the day of their initial visit. Although it may take a few additional days for some patients to receive results when biopsies are done, they can rest assured that it is an expert opinion about whether the lump is cancerous or benign.

Brenda Mcnaughton, an MD Anderson employee and recent patient in the clinic, was able to experience the clinic's personalized care and quick response to her concerns when she went in for an evaluation of a mass found on her breast.

After undergoing a mammogram, ultrasound and a fine needle aspiration, Mcnaughton received her results the same day she went in for tests. Her diagnosis turned out to be benign.

"It was a relief to find out the results so quickly and to be given follow-up suggestions even though the finding was benign," Mcnaughton says.

Getting an appointment
"Another benefit of the clinic is that no physician referral is needed," says Margaret Bell, clinical administrative director of the CPC. Bell leads the team, oversees the scheduling and business end of the CPC, and consults directly with Bevers on clinic operations.

Bevers explains that the clinic makes every accommodation to see patients as quickly as it can, based on the level of concern. "Our service goal is not only to accurately diagnose patients, but also give them peace of mind," Bevers says. Patients diagnosed with cancer are referred to the Breast Center for treatment recommendations.

Other services provided in the Cancer Prevention Center include:

  • breast cancer risk assessment, including a genetics evaluation when family history is a factor;
  • breast cancer screening;
  • counseling regarding healthy lifestyle choices to reduce cancer risk; and
  • prescription of medications to reduce the risk of developing breast cancer for women at increased risk of the disease.

Bevers points out the need for women not to wait until a breast abnormality is found, but to be proactive in following the recommended guidelines for screening. "Early detection is the key to preventing and surviving breast cancer."

Listen to Bevers talk about the Undiagnosed Breast Clinic

Patients can refer themselves to MD Anderson Cancer Center for cancer diagnosis, treatment, screening, or a second opinion about a lump or other abnormality. Visit the Contact Us site to use the online self-referral form.

By Michelle Moore, MD Anderson staff writer

audrey.jpgWhen it comes to giving back, 12-year-old Audrey Morabito has proved that age is nothing but a number. While most kids were writing out a list of all the gifts they wanted for Christmas, Audrey and her friend Brittany Bowles, 12, were looking for a way to do just the opposite.

The two seventh-graders, from John Paul II Catholic School in Houston, raised $450 for MD Anderson by selling handmade Christmas earrings for $5 a pair at their school's holiday celebration. They called their project Crafts for a Cure.

"I looked around at everything I have, and it's so much, more than enough," Bowles says. "I really just wanted to give."

On a family trip to Colorado, Morabito saw a jewelry-making shop and decided to stop in. She picked up a magazine on creating jewelry out of clay, and the rest is history.

audry pink earrings"We like arts and crafts, so when we got the clay we made lots of things like magnets, animals, rosaries and, of course, earrings," Bowles says.

With a profound understanding that not all young people are in the same position as they are, the girls have a special purpose in mind for these funds.

"We hope this money goes toward cancer research, especially for children," Morabito says. "We get to sit at home eating Christmas cookies, while some kids are spending Christmas in a hospital. It's not fair."

"This was totally their idea; we had nothing to do with it," says Audrey's mother, Joan Morabito. "They're even sending all of the earrings left over to the pediatric patients at MD Anderson's Children's Cancer Hospital."

crafts for a cure.jpgTaking their generosity to the next level, both girls decided it wouldn't be fair to leave the boys out, so they included a shipment of Wii games along with the earrings.

Audrey hopes to pass on the sentiment that philanthropy knows no boundaries or borders.

"You can do anything you want, no matter how young you are, if you put your mind to it," Morabito says. "You can't be afraid to try new things."

Read more about the people who donate to MD Anderson and the difference those donations make in Promise.

By: Danielle Walsh, The Morgan Welch Inflammatory Breast Cancer Research Program and Clinic

Twenty-four. It's the number of my close friends and family who are fighting cancer, survived cancer or died from cancer. If you add to that all the people I have met along the way who have shared their stories of being touched by cancer -- as a friend, co-worker, caregiver or patient -- the number increases exponentially. With this in mind, I have taken it upon myself to be an advocate for them in care, outreach and research.  

Morgan_square_edit.jpgOne story that spoke to me was that of Morgan Welch, a young newlywed who passed away from inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) in January 2006 at the age of 24. One of the MD Anderson publications published a story about the Morgan Welch Inflammatory Breast Cancer Clinic and Research Program, which included Morgan's wedding photo in the hand of Massimo Cristofanilli, M.D. That image stuck with me.  

When I was presented with the opportunity to become more involved with the IBC program, I reflected on that image and leaped at the chance. Now, as the inflammatory breast cancer program manager, I am inspired and focused on advocating for IBC patients and researchers.

Over the last few months my new role has provided me the opportunity to engage in quite a few activities with IBC patients, their families and friends. Their passion for our mission -- "Teach it. Treat it. Beat it." -- is undeniable.  

At the Paint the Town Pink workshop, Kathy Williams, IBC survivor and ambassador, described how to paint pink ribbons on windows and assist in the effort to raise awareness and money for the IBC program. New volunteers showed up for this growing outreach event and all were invited to help spread the word about this most virulent form of breast cancer. They shared stories of triumph in surviving the disease and of heartbreak of losing an angel to it. Needless to say, I left that event with tear stains down my cheeks, their stories emphasizing our desire for more outreach.

A couple of weeks later, my family and I walked as part of the IBC team in the Komen Race for the Cure in Houston. It was invigorating to be surrounded by so many people with the same hope -- to cure cancer. The team, co-chaired by patient advocates and survivors Ileene Robinson and Kathy Williams, was recognized in the Top 100 fundraising teams for the Komen-Houston affiliate.  

IBC_DWalsh_smaller.jpgMost recently, we hosted an afternoon tea to invite IBC ambassadors to talk about their hopes for the program. Once again, I was touched by their stories of misdiagnosis, lack of awareness in the community and their desire to get involved in advocating for IBC. The intimate conversations evoked the urgency that IBC patients face not only in their treatment and care, but in the research necessary to understand and fight the disease.

Before coming to the IBC program, I was vaguely aware of the battles being faced with this disease. But becoming a part of it first-hand, I've come to appreciate the urgency to share our understanding and awareness with public and professional communities, and the need to identify and treat patients in novel ways that benefit them quickly and effectively.

I share this with you in hopes that you will join us, the Morgan Welch IBC Clinic and Research Program, in our efforts to teach it, treat it and, ultimately, beat it.


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