More than $2M Awarded to Chicago Rush University Medical Center by Swim Across America

With the support of Swim Across America grant funding, researchers at Rush University Medical Center are gaining momentum in their quest to discover the early detection tools and treatment options of the future in the fight against cancer. RUSH’s experts intimately understand the physical, emotional and financial burdens of cancer on patients’ lives, and they refuse to let the disease rest as the second leading cause of death in the U.S. Since 2012, Swim Across America–Chicago has awarded More than $2M that has funded these early stage research projects.

Dr. Carl Maki

Grant Recipient: Carl Maki, PhD
Professor in the Department of Anatomy & Cell Biology at Rush Medical College

Project: Targeting proteins to improve drug responses for patients with treatment-resistant breast and lung cancers

Project Details: By studying cancer at the molecular level, Maki and his team have made significant strides in identifying promising new options for treatment-resistant breast and lung cancers.

In 2015 Maki received an SAA grant to study a family of enzymes known as prolyl peptidases (which regulate blood pressure and appetite) as a possible mechanism to help prevent or alleviate resistance to the drug tamoxifen, one of the most widely used therapies for the 80% of women with breast cancer whose tumors are considered estrogen receptor-positive. Maki and his team found that an enzyme inhibitor for prolyl peptidases, used in conjunction with tamoxifen, effectively killed breast cancer cells in rodents. Using these promising findings, Maki applied for and received a prestigious R01 research award for continued study from the National Institutes of Health and a grant from the Department of Defense to extend this research into triple-negative breast cancer.

In 2020 Maki was awarded another SAA grant to study proteins called histone demethylases in non-small cell lung cancer. Among the deadliest of all cancers, this accounts for about 4 in 5 lung cancer cases. Maki and his colleagues are studying how these proteins may allow lung cancer cells to resist the drugs currently used to treat the disease. By blocking these proteins, the team has been able to kill lung cancer cells in laboratory studies and lung tumors in mice. They identified a novel mechanism for how these inhibitors improve treatment outcomes and recently published their results.

“What starts out as an idea might result in something great,” Maki said. “SAA gives less established researchers a chance and helps all researchers fund pilot projects that ultimately can lead to bigger things.”

Dr. Animesh Barua

Grant Recipient: Animesh Barua, PhD
Associate Professor in the Department of Anatomy & Cell Biology at Rush Medical College
Director of the Proteomics Core and MicroRNA and Gene Expression Core

Project: Seeking an improved early detection test for ovarian cancer

Project Details: Throughout his career, Barua has relentlessly pursued the development of an effective early detection test for ovarian cancer. With an SAA grant received in 2020, he and his team are drawing upon extensive experience with immunoassays and ultrasound imaging of ovarian tumors to take the next steps forward in this important area of research. In this study, Barua’s lab is developing a fresh approach to early detection testing involving the fimbriae (fingerlike protein branches that guide an egg during ovulation) of the fallopian tubes. Emerging information shows that high-grade serous carcinoma — the most malignant and most common type of ovarian cancer — originates from the fimbriae. The aims of Barua’s study include identifying specific protein markers associated with cancer development in the fimbriae and determining the efficacy of these markers in predicting cancer growth.

Dr. Amanda Marzo

Grant Recipient: Amanda Marzo, PhD
Assistant Professor in the Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Hematology, Oncology and Cell Therapy at Rush Medical College

Project: Bolstering the body’s natural immune response for greater success in the battle against breast cancer

Project Details: Tumor-infiltrating CD8 T-cells are essential for tumor immunity. However, many of these cells become exhausted and are unable to protect against tumor growth. Key molecules known as checkpoint inhibitors, such as programmed death-ligand 1 (PD-L1) expressed on tumor cells and programmed cell death protein 1 (PD-1) expressed on CD8 T-cells, have been shown to be a hallmark of CD8 T-cell exhaustion. For most tumors, blocking PD-1/PD-L1 signaling does not result in tumor rejection. A main cause for the ineffectiveness of checkpoint blockade immunotherapy lies in the dysfunctional state of CD8 T-cells once they enter the tumor. CD8 T-cells are specialized in killing tumor cells but face multiple suppressive signals that dampen their ability to effectively respond. Using an SAA grant received in 2019,Marzo and her colleagues seek to improve scientists’ understanding of how other immune-modulating treatments can improve CD8 T-cell responsiveness to checkpoint inhibitors. Specifically, the researchers aim to determine if metformin, an anti-diabetic drug, could enhance tumor-infiltrating CD8 T-cell responsiveness to PD-1 blockade therapy by altering breast cancer metabolism. The team also seeks to establish if bolstering the number of infiltrating CD8 T-cells into the tumor using interleukin-15 complexes (known to cause proliferation of cells and increase their killing ability) in combination with PD-1 blockade therapy could induce regression of established breast tumors and lead to long-term tumor immunity. Marzo and her team plan to publish the results of their study and are using preliminary data generated from this research to apply for a federal R21 grant.

Dr. Alan Blank

Grant Recipients: Alan T. Blank, MD, MS
Assistant Professor in the Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Section of Orthopedic Oncology at Rush Medical College

Jitesh Pratap, PhD
Associate Professor in the Department of Anatomy & Cell Biology at Rush Medical College

Dr. Jitesh Pratap

Project: Pursuing therapeutic approaches to prevent breast cancers from

metastasizing to the bones

Project Details: In this study funded by a 2019 SAA grant, Blank and Pratap seek to fulfill a need for the development of a therapy that can prevent primary breast cancers from metastasizing to the bones and surviving there. The researchers hypothesize, based on results of previous studies, that a subgroup of patients with breast cancer that has metastasized to the bone has high levels of autophagy (a process of recycling of cellular components), Runx2 proteins and acetylated α-tubulin — worsening their chances of survival. To investigate this, the researchers are working to determine the clinicopathologic association with the autophagy pathway in tumor samples from patients with cancer that has metastasized to the bone. They are also creating patient-derived xenograft models of bone metastasis. Blank and Pratap hope the results of this study will propel the development of better combinatorial therapeutic approaches to treat bone metastasis.

Dr. Faraz Bishehsari

Grant Recipient: Faraz Bishehsari, MD, PhD
Associate Professor of Medicine & the Graduate College in the Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Digestive Diseases and Nutrition, Section of Gastroenterology at Rush Medical College
Associate Director for Molecular & Translational Research for the Rush Center for Integrated Microbiome & Chronobiology Research

Project: Pursuing precision medicine to improve outcomes for pancreatic cancer patients

Project Details: Patients with pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma — the most common form of pancreatic cancer — face poor survival rates, with only 6%-8% of patients surviving five years after diagnosis. This cancer does not respond well to targeted therapies. Bishehsari and his colleagues received an SAA grant in 2019 to establish a platform towards precision medicine in order to tailor therapies based on patients’ individual tumor characteristics. The researchers have developed primary cancer cells from a small tissue sample obtained during diagnostic pancreatic biopsies from pancreatic ductal adenocarcinomas. Molecular profiling of these patient-derived tumor organoids explained the variation in response to a variety of conventional and investigational therapies. They are optimizing this platform to help eventually establish individualized treatments for pancreatic cancer patients.

Dr. Jeff Borgia

Grant Recipient: Jeffrey A. Borgia, PhD
Associate Professor in the Department of Anatomy & Cell Biology at Rush Medical College
Director of the Rush University Cancer Center Biorepository and Rush Biomarker Development Core

Project: Identifying biomarkers for the improved evaluation and treatment of stage I non-small cell lung cancer

Project Details: Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related mortality in the United States, but evidence is surfacing that widespread lung cancer screening programs may improve patient outcomes when the disease is detected early. Borgia and his team received an SAA grant in 2020 to develop a new diagnostic method to improve physicians’ ability to predict the recurrence of stage I non-small cell lung cancer, or NSCLC. This would help physicians identify patients who would benefit from adjuvant treatment options or closer surveillance. The aims of this study include identifying biomarkers for disease recurrence in stage I NSCLC patients and evaluating these biomarkers for their value in predicting recurrence.

Swim Across America has supported cancer research at Rush University Medical Center since 2012 through more than $2 million in grant funding. Together, Swim Across America and RUSH are relentlessly fighting cancer, working to save lives.

Swim Across America Debuts Team Captain Package with SAA Hat

Swim Across America is excited to celebrate our team captains this year by introducing a team captain package! Once you register your team, you’ll receive the package in the mail that includes a new SAA baseball cap (pictured) and resources to be successful.

We hope you’ll be signing up to lead a team again this year and receiving one soon! There is also a new Team Captain Corner page on the website, where you can find everything from email templates to use with your teammates and donors, to online tools and social media resources. You can check out the page at www.swimacrossamerica.org/captains.

Register your team today and start recruiting!

 

SAA Debuts WaveMaker Cooler Bag for 2022

Swim Across America is excited to celebrate our top fundraisers with the 2022 WaveMaker gift of a Backpack Cooler for participants and volunteers that raise $1,000 or more!

As part of the WaveMaker club, we want you to show your SAA pride year-round with a cooler perfect for any occasion. The 20 can cooler bag is light, durable and heat sealed with gray PEVA lining. It features a padded back panel and comfortable backpack straps for easy carrying or grab and go with the removable, adjustable shoulder strap with shoulder pad. Want to take this awesome item home with you? Register today and set your fundraising goal to WaveMaker!

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Support Swim Across America with a Qualified Charitable Distribution from your IRA:

Make Waves to Fight Cancer while satisfying your required minimum distribution.

What is a QCD?

A qualified charitable distribution (QCD) is a distribution of funds from your IRA (excluding an ongoing SEP or SIMPLE IRA) directly to a qualified charitable organization, such as Swim Across America. Since the gift goes directly to the qualified charity without passing through your hands, the dollar amount of the donation may be excluded from your taxable income up to a maximum of $100,000 annually, with some exceptions. Please consult your tax advisor for information regarding your specific exceptions.

To learn more about QCDs, visit IRS.gov

Am I eligible to make a QCD?

If you are 70.5 years or older, you can make tax-free gifts to Swim Across America of up to $100,000 from your IRA. Your donation will count toward your minimum required distribution.

How do I make a QCD to Swim Across America?

Contact your IRA custodian and request a direct transfer to:

Swim Across America, Inc.
8508 Park Road #389 Charlotte, NC 28210
Tax ID number: 22-3248256

Do not withdraw the funds and make a contribution yourself, or you will have to report the withdrawal as taxable income. If you are requesting the transfer at the end of the tax year, allow enough time for the transfer to complete by December 31. 

Please note: we are not in a position to give formal tax advice, and we strongly advise you to have these gifts reviewed by your own qualified financial or tax advisors.

SAA Debuts WaveMaker Cooler Bag for 2022

Swim Across America is excited to celebrate our 35th anniversary in 2022 with a Swim Across America WaveMaker gift of 20 can backpack cooler for participants and volunteers that raise $1,000 or more!

As part of the WaveMaker club, we want you to show your SAA pride year-round with a cooler perfect for any occasion. The 20 can cooler bag is light, durable and heat sealed with gray PEVA lining. It features a padded back panel and comfortable backpack straps for easy carrying or grab and go with the removable, adjustable shoulder strap with shoulder pad. Want to take this awesome item home with you? Register today and set your fundraising goal to WaveMaker!

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What’s in Your SAA My Way Swag Bag?

SAA My Way is our new virtual offering where you decide your activity and timeline to help us fight cancer. After you get registered with a $50 self-donation, we’ll send you an SAA Swag Bag to show off your spirit and set you up for #SAAMyWay success. (Note: this virtual participation type is for those that don’t plan on swimming at an SAA open water swim.)

Here’s what you can expect in the mail shortly after you register:

1. Swim Across America Shirt

Enjoy the softest tri-blend around with the popular Swim Across America shirt in the size you select at registration.

2. SAA My Way Toolkit

Learn everything you need to know about how to pick an activity or challenge and how to share and inspire to make sure your fundraising makes the biggest impact!

3. SAA VINYL CAR STICKER & BUTTON

Show your love on your car, laptop, backpack or jacket with the sticker and button we’ll be sending to help you spread the word about SAA!

SIGN UP FOR SAA MY WAY TODAY!

Will You Reach WaveMaker Status in 2022?

Swim Across America is excited to celebrate 35 years of impact and we want to see you hit WaveMaker status in 2022. WaveMakers commit to hitting a higher fundraising goal and bring that same energy to SAA events!

Be a WaveMaker by taking your fundraising to the next level and raising $1,000. Anyone ― swimmers, volunteers, SAA My Way participants ― can achieve WaveMaker status. As part of the WaveMaker club, we want you to show your SAA pride year-round.  Register today and set your fundraising goal to WaveMaker!

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The Holidays Come Early With #GivingTuesday and Swim Across America

What better way to make someone feel special this holiday season than making a difference in the fight against cancer in their name and providing them with a special treat! Swim Across America is making it easy for you to do so this Giving Tuesday!

Here’s how it works:

1. MAKE A DONATION

Donate $100 or more by #GivingTuesday (deadline of December 1st). Select a friend or family member to honor with your gift.

2. We Send a HOLIDAY GIFT

Your friend receives a holiday gift filled with chocolates and a card letting them know of your thoughtful donation.

3. YOUR IMPACT

Your donation helps Swim Across America fund cancer research. Your friend will appreciate the goodwill of your gesture.

LIMITED SUPPLY  – ORDER NOW FOR HOLIDAYS!

2020 Swim Across America Highlights: Tyler Roethke and Grant Wentworth Swim the Vineyard Sound and Raise over $100,000

In 2020, Swim Across America transitioned from open water swims to fun and exciting virtual challenges in each city. We’re highlighting some of the best ‘Making Waves to Fight Cancer’ stories with Swim Across America this year!

On August 8th, 2020, Swim Across America Nantucket participants Tyler Roethke and Grant Wentworth took their personal challenge to a whole new level by swimming a 10K crossing of the Vineyard Sound! These two accomplished this challenging swim in just under 2 hours and together have raised over $100,000 to support Nantucket Cottage Hospital and Palliative & Supportive Care of Nantucket – simply AMAZING! Way to go Grant and Tyler! Check out these awesome shots captured by photographer Tom Olcott! If you’d like to support these two outstanding SAA swimmers you can do so by going to swimacrossamerica.org/goto/GrantWentworth & swimacrossamerica.org/goto/TylerRoethke.

Fundraise for SAA When You Make Affiliate Partner Purchases

Our generous Affiliate Partners support the Swim Across America mission year-round. When you make purchases through these stores and portals, SAA receives a percentage of each sale back. You can learn more about how each affiliate partner works below.

If you would like to become an affiliate partner of Swim Across America, contact us at info@swimacrossamerica.org.

SwimOutlet.com/SAA

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Visit SAA’s updated official store at SwimOutlet.com/SAA to get your wetsuit, goggles and swimming gear. First-time customers get an extra 10% off – PLUS a portion of your sale from the official store is donated to                                                          Swim Across America.

AmazonSmile

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When first visiting AmazonSmile, customers are prompted to select a charitable organization from over one million eligible organizations. In order to browse or shop at AmazonSmile, customers must first select a charitable organization. For eligible purchases at AmazonSmile, the AmazonSmile Foundation will donate 0.5% of the purchase price to the customer’s selected charitable organization. Make sure you bookmark the AmazonSmile page as your homepage so all purchases are recorded to give back to Swim Across America!

PayPal Giving Fund

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  1. Search for the charity you would like to support, including Swim Across America! Your gift goes to PayPal Giving Fund, a 501(c)(3) public charity. PayPal covers all transaction fees.
  2. PayPal will deliver 100% of your donation to your chosen charity.
  3. PayPal Giving Fund will issue your donation receipt. PayPal will share your name and email with the charity you help, so they can thank you. Or you can remain anonymous if you choose.

Orca

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You can further support Orca and Swim Across America by using the code SAA10 at orca.com to save 10% on wetsuits, gear and more. Now through June 30th, all purchases with this code will result in 10% being donated back to Swim Across America!

Giving Assistant

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Members can choose to automatically donate any amount or percentage of their cash back to the charity of their choice.

1. Shop and Save – Get coupons and up to 2x cash back at 2,497 top brands.

  1. Raise Cash Back Donations – Opt-in to donate 1% to 100% of the cash back you earn to Swim Across America!

Humble Bundle

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Simply navigate to the Humble Store (video games) and then choose the “Charity” tab towards the top of the page. From there you can search and choose which charity you’d like to support through your Humble Store purchases. You can choose which charity you’d like to support, including Swim Across America, with the PayPal Giving Fund!

Ebay for Charity

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Simply decide what causes or charities you want to support—then sell and shop with a purpose. eBay for Charity has partnered with the PayPal Giving Fund to make it easy for sellers to donate 10% to 100% of your item’s final sale price to a certified charity.

1. SELECT CHARITY

  • Seller picks the charity and the donation percentage when listing an item.
2. SELL & SHIP
  • Item sells
  • Buyer pays full amount to seller
  • Seller ships item to the buyer
3. DONATE
  • After the transaction is complete (approx. 21 days), PayPal Giving Fund will automatically collect the donation from the seller’s PayPal account*.
  • Once a month PayPal Giving Fund will combine and deliver 100% of all donations collected for that charity.

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