Lab Series #3: Rush University Cancer Center

Your donations allow SAA to provide funding to some of the world’s most renowned cancer institutions. This is the third in a series featuring the SAA LABS that our beneficiaries have named in honor of the efforts of Swim Across America.

This month, we are profiling the Swim Across America Laboratory for Cancer Research at Rush University Medical Center. This lab, and a Patient Procedure Suite, were named for SAA in 2015 after more than $1 million was raised by SAA since 2011.


Each year, Rush University Medical Center runs an internal, peer-reviewed process to distribute the funds from SAA – Chicago. Rush researchers submitted more than 20 proposals for consideration for the proceeds from last year’s Chicago events, which included the open water swim at Ohio Street Beach and the 2nd Swim Across Lake Michigan. Four research projects will be funded from 2015 and the awards have been made to support projects focused on a variety of treatment disciplines that impact patients with breast, colon, liver, and lung cancers, among others.

Kevin Gray, Director of Development at Rush University Medical Center was kind enough to answer some of our questions.

Can you shed some light on the cancer research being done in the SAA lab??

The cancer research being done with SAA funds varies from breast, gastro, lung and other. Dr. Jeff Borgia’s lab, which was named the Swim Across America Laboratory for Cancer Research, focuses on two areas: 1) Identifying a genetic marker within specific proteins that determine a person’s likelihood that they have or could develop lung cancer. And 2) fine-tuning a blood test – finger prick – that could be used in all primary care offices, but specifically in underserved communities and areas with high incidence of lung disease.

What kind of grants have been acquired through the research?

There have been more than two dozen grants from various sources that continue to help all investigators during the timeframe of the SAA relationship. Most notable, two investigators, Drs. Carl Maki and Amanda Marzo, have leveraged SAA dollars to garner NIH funding. Dr. Marzo received $425,000 earlier this month and Dr. Maki received $375,000 last year.

What exciting plans does Rush have for 2016 and beyond?

The most exciting plans are technology and equipment investment. A computer-based initiative called bioinformatics and a biorepository will take Rush to the next level in terms of productivity and competitiveness. Bioinformatics is the ability, through extremely fast computers, to process an enormous amount of data in an extremely short time. Information that used to take weeks now can be processed in days or hours. It will be paired with the biorepository, which is housed in the SAA lab, which can process and store large amounts of tissue or blood samples for study. This enables the investigators to work faster and more efficiently, revealing new answers and results that potentially lead to a treatment or cure.

What does the lab mean to Rush?

It means a myriad of things:  1) It enables Rush to conduct meaningful research with an almost instant impact on patients. 2) It attracts the best and the brightest to Rush as the institution is tackling cutting-edge work. 3) It makes Rush a stronger academic institution as tomorrow’s doctors, nurses and other medical professionals get to work side-by-side with the best And 4) It puts Rush and those with SAA backing in a position to find the best solutions for new treatments and possibly a cure.

2015 Swim Across America Lab Dedication

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