- Burnett School College of Medicine Faculty News Medical
A donation from the Florida Ladies Auxiliary to the Veterans of Foreign Wars will help support College of Medicine research into one of the deadliest cancers in modern medicine — pancreatic cancer, which has only a 6 percent survival rate for its victims.
“Its very humbling to see these funds coming from such hardworking people.” said Dr. Deborah Altomare, assistant professor in the Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences whose lab will receive the almost $52,000 donation. “It comes at a wonderful time, because our lab is working to get federal funds in order to continue our research.”
Dr. Altomare’s research focuses on pancreatic and cervical cancer, illnesses that became all too familiar for her postdoctoral training at the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia. “I realized right then that it was an underfunded area, and that there was a lot of work to do,” she said of pancreatic cancer, which claims nearly 40,000 lives a year in America. During the Ladies Auxiliary VFW Fall Conference on November 1 at the Florida Hotel and Conference Center in Orlando, Dr. Altomare explained her current research, which focuses on the role of inflammation in tumor growth and tests new treatment strategies to stop the growth of pancreatic tumors. “We’re hoping to better understand the biology and signaling pathways of this cancer to improve patient survival through new drugs and treatment options,” she said.
For immediate past department president of the Ladies Auxiliary for Florida VFW, Debbie McCollum, the fight against pancreatic cancer is a personal one, as she recently lost her mother Pauline to the illness. A UCF alumna, McCollum saw Dr. Altomare’s lab as the perfect place to donate the organization’s biggest check yet. “Every family has been affected by cancer,”she said. “I wanted to take care of Central Florida and our veterans, because you’re going to be right there beside them.” The 1.2 million-square-foot Orlando VA Medical Center is scheduled to open next door to the College of Medicine in Lake Nona in 2015.
McCollum presented the group’s check to The UCF College of Medicine on November 1 at the Ladies Auxiliary VFW Fall Conference at the Florida Hotel and Conference Center in Orlando. The gift came with a surprise — the Ladies Auxiliary had decided to donate much more than its traditional $30,000 yearly gift. Of the $51,357.72 total, nearly half will immediately go to Dr. Altomare’s cancer research, while the rest will be endowed for future research efforts.
The Florida Ladies Auxiliary VFW has shown strong support for cancer research, raising more than $230,000 for its Cancer Aid and Research program last year alone. “They did this with spaghetti dinners, talent shows, model contests—these ladies are amazing in what they come up with,” McCollum said. “We wanted to donate to a place where we could leave a legacy and make an impact, and that’s why we chose UCF.”