$4.2M granted to Seattle Cancer Care Alliance

To date, Swim Across America has contributed close to $4.2 million for clinical research at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance and Fred Hutch. Starting in 2019, funds raised from the SAA-Seattle have gone to support breakthrough research by young investigators. In 2021, six grants were awarded to researchers focused on: lymphoma, sarcoma, breast, pancreatic, and urological cancer research. Below, the grant recipients share progress statements on their research over the last year.

Dr. Meghan Flanagan

Dr. Meghan Flanagan
Research focus: Breast cancer
Project title: Association of HSD3B1 (1245C) genotype with recurrence among post-menopausal women with estrogen receptor- positive, HER2- negative breast cancer
Background: Endocrine (antiestrogen) therapy reduces the risk of recurrence and improves mortality among women with hormone-receptor positive breast cancer. However, approximately one-quarter of women are inherently resistant or develop resistance to endocrine therapy. Ultimately, this research may allow us to identify women with innate endocrine resistance and develop novel therapeutics and treatment strategies.
Progress Statement: The SAA funds were used to evaluate whether an association exists between a mutation in a gene (HSD3B1, involved in hormone biosynthesis) and breast cancer outcomes. Using extensively collected clinical and pathologic data about patient demographics, tumor and treatment data and recurrence rates, we were able to show that women with two mutations in the HSD3B1 gene had higher rates of distant metastatic recurrence compared to those women who did not have this mutation. Future studies will be forthcoming to determine how this mutation may decrease the effectiveness of anti-estrogen medications that are used universally in post-menopausal ER+ breast cancer. This mutation is found in up to 15 percent of ER+ post-menopausal breast cancer patients, and if shown to decrease the effectiveness of anti-estrogen medications, there would be potential indications for alternative treatment strategies in these patients.

Dr. Sita Kugel

Dr. Sita Kugel
Research focus: Pancreatic Cancer
Project title: Exploring novel functions of HMGA2 in pancreatic cancer
Background: Pancreatic Ductal Adenocarcinoma (PDA) is an extremely lethal disease with a 5-year survival rate of less than 10%. Recent work has led to the discovery that PDA can be subdivided into two principal subtypes based on transcriptional signatures: classical and quasi-mesenchymal (QM). The QM PDA subtype is more aggressive and has the worst overall survival. Our laboratory has been focused on understanding of the mechanisms that drive each subtype in hopes of identifying therapeutic vulnerabilities that may be exploited in the clinic.
Progress Statement: Within an already challenging malignancy, there are transcriptional subtypes of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma that are especially lethal. Understanding what defines each subtype, as well as their susceptibilities and mechanisms of resistance, will help to identify new targeted therapies or combination therapies and lead to more treatment options for this devastating disease.

Dr. Jonathan Sham

Dr. Jonathan Sham
Research focus: Pancreatic Cancer
Project title: Novel Drug- eluting Biopolymer to Reduce Pancreatic Fistula and Improve Outcomes After Pancreatic Surgery
Background: Pancreatectomy is the mainstay of any potentially curative treatment regimen for pancreatic cancer. Despite an overall improvement in the safety of pancreatic surgery over the past several decades, the morbidity of pancreatectomy remains exceedingly high. The most significant complication after pancreatic surgery is postoperative pancreatic fistula (POPF), which occurs in up to 60% of cases. The use of a biopolymer, poly(Nisopropylacrylamide) (PNIPAM), is an innovative method to prevent leakage of pancreatic juice from the cut surface of the gland, while the suspended octreotide- eluting microspheres will simultaneously reduce baseline pancreatic fluid secretion. This novel dual-action approach will be tested in a validated rat model of POPF with the goal of rapid clinical translation and patient benefit.
Progress Statement: Swim Across America is advancing our work to improve outcomes after pancreatic surgery. Their support is enabling a trailblazing collaboration between surgeons and bioengineers to develop novel ways to stop leaks after pancreas surgery and make patients live happier, healthier and longer lives. Polymer synthesis is moving forward, and two teams are working on creating and testing polymers with different characteristics for use in our animal experiments.

Dr. Jordan Gauthier

Dr. Jordan Gauthier
Research focus: CAR T-cell therapy
Project title: Factors associated with failure of CD19 CAR T cells in diffuse large B cell lymphoma
Background: We are investigating two factors potentially critical to failure of CD19 CAR T-cell therapy for DLBCL: a) T cell dysfunction, impeding the generation of functional CAR T cells during manufacturing; b) the suppressive tumor microenvironment (TME). Our studies will better characterize T cell dysfunction and the TME as core mechanisms of failure of CD19 CAR T cells and identify potential targets to improve outcomes of CAR T-cell therapy for DLBCL.
Progress Statement: The Swim Across America grant allowed us to explore the two following aims.
Aim 1: To determine whether exhausted T cells are associated with treatment failure after CAR T-cell therapy for diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL). We analyzed blood samples from 34 DLBCL patients treated on a clinical trial of CAR T-cell therapy. While we did not confirm an association between exhausted T cells and treatment failure, we found that a higher proportion of terminally differentiated T cells may have an adverse impact on the outcomes of CAR T-cell therapy.
Aim 2: To determine if an exhausted gene signature in T cells from lymphoma tumors is associated with treatment failure, we analyzed pre-treatment tumor biopsies obtained from 17 patients receiving CAR T-cell therapy. In biopsies from patients in complete response after CAR T-cell therapy, we found that T cell-associated genes were overexpressed compared to patients not in complete response after treatment. This suggests that tumors more permissive to T cell infiltration might respond better to CAR T-cell therapy. So far, we have not confirmed that an exhausted gene signature is associated with treatment failure. The SAA grant has been used to design and optimize novel assays that will allow us to further address this aim in the future.

Dr. John Lee

Dr. John Lee
Research focus: Sarcoma
Project title: Development of STEAP1 chimeric antigen receptor T-cell therapy for Ewing sarcoma
Background: Ewing sarcoma (ES) is a soft tissue/bone cancer with 200 newly diagnosed adolescents/young adults per year in the United States. Patients with metastatic dissemination face a very grim prognosis as available treatments are unable to eradicate the disease. New therapeutic approaches are needed. If successful, these studies will help lay the groundwork for the development and clinical translation of a first-in-field STEAP1 CAR T-cell immunotherapy for ES.
Progress Statement: We applied the Swim Across America grant to evaluate whether a novel chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cell therapy targeting the protein STEAP1 could be an effective strategy to treat Ewing sarcoma. Our results indicate that human Ewing sarcoma tumor models commonly express STEAP1 and are susceptible to killing by STEAP1 CAR T cells. In related studies, we have also determined that STEAP1 CAR T cell therapy appears safe in a novel mouse model that we engineered to express human STEAP1. Together, these findings provide the rational to translate STEAP1 CAR T cell therapy into clinical trials for Ewing sarcoma in the near future.

Dr. Adam Gadzinski

Dr. Adam Gadzinski
Research focus:
Urological cancer
Project title: Interstate Telehealth to improve access to urological cancer care among rural patients.
Background: Timely access to urological cancer care is challenging for rural patients who often travel great distances to tertiary centers. This is particularly true for patients residing in the WWAMI (Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana, Idaho) region. We hypothesize that Telehealth will provide similar patient satisfaction, reduced costs, and earlier time to treatment. We further hypothesize that implementation of the interstate Telehealth program will decrease referral to visit time and increase clinical efficiency. Lastly, we hypothesize that providing Telehealth appointments will increase the frequency of referrals from rural areas. We anticipate that implementation of our interstate Telehealth program will improve access to urological cancer care for rural and underserved patients throughout the WWAMI region.
Progress Statement: Our SAA grant has been used to support our telemedicine research efforts to assess the quality of telemedicine visits for cancer patients from rural areas and the Pacific Northwest states. We have demonstrated that telemedicine visits save cancer patients and their families a significant amount of time and money that would have been spent traveling to doctor appointments. We also found that patients are very satisfied with receiving cancer care remotely via telemedicine, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Colorado Community Makes Waves to Benefit Children’s Hospital Colorado

Picture a sunny and warm mid-August morning in Colorado. Retired Olympians such as Missy Franklin and George DiCarlo are smiling with water enthusiasts of all ages and abilities. They enter the water of Chatfield Reservoir in Littleton to “Make Waves to Fight Cancer” with the Swim Across America-Denver charity swim. There’s a sense of community as supporters and family cheer for them. Not because they’ll be racing for first place, rather because they’re all there to raise money that will provide grants for pediatric cancer at Children’s Hospital Colorado.

Created in 2018, Swim Across America-Denver has granted $545,917 to research projects at the Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders at Children’s Colorado. Uniquely, all the proceeds from Swim Across America-Denver stay in our community to fund research projects at Children’s Colorado where philanthropic grants from Swim Across America are necessary to make progress in giving hope to kids and their families who are fighting cancer. Here are the projects that are being funded by SAA:

  • The acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) research project, led by Drs. Amanda Winters, Taizo Nakano, and Craig Forester, aimed at bringing new therapies into phase II of clinical trials for pediatric MDS and AML to better define how to diagnose, classify and treat MDS patients.
  • The tumor research project, led by Dr. Adam Green, which will characterize the immune response to new brain tumors to better establish which types are amenable to cancer immunotherapy and provide a new prognostic marker for these diseases.
  • The sepsis biomarker project, led by Dr. Leonora Slatnick, will lead to novel ways of diagnosing and managing infectious complications in immunosuppressed patients.
  • The CAR-T Cell project, led by Dr. Lindsey Murphy and collaborating with Dr. Winters and members of the BMT-Cellular Therapeutics team, aims to use novel laboratory methods for detecting CAR-T cells in patients receiving those therapies to better understand how patients respond to these therapies and improve cure rates.

“With [Swim Across America grants] we’re building the largest national database on pediatric myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) to collect data on all of the past and future children with this life-threatening disorder. SAA’s contribution will help encourage research collaboration at over 50 children’s hospitals to enter data that will help develop a national standards-of-practice to treat pediatric MDS,” said Taizo Nakano, MD.

Grants from SAA will also be used to fund site initiation of a nationwide clinical trial for pediatric MDS at Children’s Colorado and will also be critical for Dr. Forester and Dr. Winters as they investigate the biological activity of the drug combination being tested.

“This will allow us to understand why the drugs work for pediatric MDS and perhaps enable us to predict at diagnosis which children with MDS are more or less likely to benefit from these drugs,” said Amanda Winters, MD.

“We welcome and invite our Colorado community to join us,” said Nicole Vanderpoel and Jessica Vitcenda, community leaders for SAA—Denver. “You can swim, volunteer or do a virtual activity with all the proceeds staying in Denver to benefit Children’s Colorado.”

Learn more about SAA-Denver and how you can get involved by visiting Swim Across America – Denver.  

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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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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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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Updated Swim Across America Fundraising Messages for 2020

There have been many requests for sample messages to use in your fundraising efforts during the uncertainty of the current pandemic. Here are some messages created by Swim Across America staff and leading participants that you can share via email, text message, social media, the SAA fundraising app and other formats. 

Message #1

Every 15 min, 50 Americans are diagnosed with cancer. Even during a pandemic, people continue to hear the terrible words ‘you have cancer’. I have joined the Swim Across America family so that I can continue to give cancer patients hope by raising funds to support cutting edge cancer research. If you are able, please support me and my swim by making a donation to my personal fundraising page. Every bit helps and will make an impact in the fight to find a cure. 

Message #2

Most of us know someone who is dealing with cancer, and how devastating it can be both for the person who is ill and for the family.  Cancer touches everyone, and unfortunately during these crazy times, cancer isn’t going into quarantine. That is why I’m STILL making waves to fight cancer with Swim Across America. Since we can’t be together right now, would you instead ‘buy me a drink’ or ‘take me out to dinner’ by making a donation to my Swim Across America swim. The money you give will go toward cutting edge cancer research and make an impact in the fight to find a cure. 

Message #3

The past few weeks have definitely been a challenge for us all, which is why I wanted to send you a quick note to see how you were doing and to share with you on something I am looking forward to. This summer, when we are all hopefully able to come together again, I will be swimming 1 mile in open water with Swim Across America to raise funds to support cancer research. When you have a moment, check out my personal fundraising page to learn more about the event and what the funds will support. I’d love to catch up and hear what you are up to as well. Hopefully you have some fun plans to look forward to later this year too. 

Message #4

I hope you are doing ok in this crazy time. I wanted to reach out to thank you again for supporting my participation in Swim Across America. It really made me smile and feel just a little bit closer during all this isolation. Did you know that you might be able to double your donation by getting a matching gift from your employer? Check with your HR department to see what forms need to be completed or search here to see if your company is eligible for matching gifts. Every bit helps, so thank you for checking with your employer for a match! 

Message #5

I’ve been thinking about you and your family during this difficult time and wanted to reach out to see how you were doing. I’ve signed up to participate and fundraise to support cancer research with Swim Across America this year and they’ve been sharing these inspiring stories about dealing with uncertainty right now that I thought you might enjoy.  I hope this brings a little hope to your world right now. I can’t wait until we can get together again soon.

If you have any great messages you think other SAA participants can benefit from using, you can share with us at info@swimacrossamerica.org

2015 Swim Across America event, Day 2 - Nantasket Beach.

 

How Does the CARES Act Affect My 2020 Donation?

CARES Act for Nonprofits – On Friday, March 27, Congress passed and the President signed into law the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, a $2 trillion economic stimulus package legislated to provide immediate relief for nonprofits. You can help give families affected by cancer hope when you make a donation to Swim Across America.

Details About CARES Act

The inclusion of an expanded charitable giving incentive is a critical acknowledgement by Congress that the work of nonprofits like Swim Across America are essential services. Indeed, cancer isn’t taking a break and our mission continues to be critical as we raise funds and provide grants to our world-class beneficiaries. It is the first time Congress has passed this type of giving incentive in response to disaster or national emergency. 

Here Are The Highlights

IMPORTANT: New Deduction Available: Up to $300 per tax filing in annual charitable contributions. It is an “above the line” adjustment to income that will reduce a donor’s adjusted gross income (AGI), and thereby reduce taxable income. This is particularly beneficial to people who take the standard deduction when filing their taxes (in other words for taxpayers who do not itemize their deductions). A donation to a donor advised fund (DAF) does not qualify for this new deduction. 

New Charitable Deduction Limits: As part of the bill, individuals and corporations that itemize can deduct much greater amounts of their contributions. Individuals can elect to deduct donations up to 100% of their 2020 AGI (up from 60% previously). Corporations may deduct up to 25% of taxable income, up from the previous limit of 10%. The new deduction is for gifts that go to a public charity, such as Swim Across America. The old deduction rules apply to gifts to private foundations. The higher deduction does not apply to donations directly to a DAF. 

If your assets are substantial enough that you can give more than your income this year, you won’t lose the deduction for the excess amount. You can use it next year, as has always been the case.

Required Min. Distributions Waived in 2020 for Most Donors: RMD for individuals over age 70 ½ are suspended until 2021. This includes distributions from defined benefit pension plans and 457 plans. The RMD is an attractive way for donors to make a significant charitable gift directly from their IRA to a charity through a qualified charitable contribution (QCD) while avoiding taxable income. The suspension of the RMD may dampen somewhat the incentive for a donor who makes a gift from their IRA to count toward that minimum. However, the tax benefit of the QCD remains. 

The takeaway – donors directing a QCD to charity this year (up to $100,000 per individual) will still reduce their taxable IRA balance. This allows all taxpayers, itemizers and non-itemizers alike, to direct gifts from their IRA to charities in a tax efficient manner. 

DONATE TO SWIM ACROSS AMERICA TODAY

If you have questions or would like assistance making a donation, you can contact us at info@swimacrossamerica.org

This information is not intended as legal or tax advice. For such advice, please consult an attorney or tax advisor. Figures cited in any examples are for illustrative purposes only. References to tax rates include federal taxes only and are subject to change. State law may further impact your individual results.

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SAA Debuts WaveMaker Swag Bag for 2019

Swim Across America is excited to celebrate our 32nd year with a Swim Across America WaveMaker Swag Bag that includes three exclusive SAA – branded items!

As part of the WaveMaker club, we want you to show your SAA pride year-round. The official 2019 WaveMaker Swag Bag offers a branded cinch bag with zipper, a 16-ounce flexible Silipint 16 oz silicone glass and a custom BOCO Gear trucker hat. Want to take these awesome items home with you? Register today and set your fundraising goal to WaveMaker!

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Highlights of the swag bag include:

  • Cinched drawstring bag with zipper compartment for extra storage and functionality.
  • Eco-friendly, reusable and unbreakable silicone pint glass with unique tie-dye design from Silipint. Great to use on a pool deck, beach or any outdoor
  • A customized BOCO Gear Trucker Hat perfect for your outdoor training and adventures.

 

SAA Debuts WaveMaker Backpack gift for 2018

Swim Across America is excited to celebrate our 31st year with a Swim Across America-branded backpack for all participants that hit the WaveMaker fundraising goal.

This is your chance to go the extra mile and join the exclusive WaveMaker club to show your SAA pride year-round. Featuring a timeless design, the official 2018 WaveMaker backpack offers functionality and style including a laptop sleeve and tons of storage compartments for all your needs. Don’t forget to show your SAA swagwith buttons available for the first time. Register today and set your fundraising goal to WaveMaker!

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Other highlights of the backpack include:

  • Large, zippered main compartment
  • Interior multi-function organizer sized to fit up to an iPhone 6S plus
  • Easy access padded laptop pocket (fits up to a 15” laptop)
  • Front zippered pocket to store a tablet (fits up to a 10” tablet with a case)
  • Dual elastic water bottle pockets
  • Padded, adjustable shoulder straps
  • Neoprene top grab handle
  • Sport mesh padded back panels for cool and dry comfort