The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's (LLS) annual Man & Woman of the Year fundraising campaign calls on Triangle community leaders to demonstrate gritty resolve in the quest to find a cure. At the close of this year’s ten-week campaign on April 30, Duke’s Stefanie Sarantopoulos, MD, PhD, was named the 2016 Woman of the Year.
Sarantopoulos and this year's LLS Man of they Year, Michael Brooks, vice president of PRA Health Sciences, raised the most money to support the LLS mission to cure leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma, and improve the quality of life of patients and their families.
“Philanthropy is not for the loner,” shared a triumphant Sarantopoulos. “You need a community. Team “Life Sabers” was the right mix of highly motivated, hard-working people. We all had professional and or personal cancer experiences on which to draw. I am super fortunate to be part of an amazing community of kind-hearted people—people who gave valuable time and effort to raise awareness about the urgent need for more cancer research.”
Sarantopoulos and her team, Life Sabers, raised $78,000 over the 10-week fundraising campaign, Feb. 23 through April 30. Sarantopoulos is one of two researchers at Duke receiving grants from LLS. In October, Sarantopoulos received a Translational research Program grant for “Notch2-BCR Axis:Targeting Drivers of B Cell Fate In Chroinc GVHD.”
Sarantopoulos, cell therapy and hematologic malignancies specialist, received her medical degree from Boston School of Medicine. She specializes in bone marrow transplants, and her research focuses on the development of chronic graft versus host disease. The cause is also personal for Sarantopoulos. While in medical school, her father, Joe Sarantopoulos, succumbed to the effects of acute myeloid leukemia/myelodysplastic syndrome (AML/MDS).
At the LLS Gala, supporters from team Life Sabers gather around Woman of the Year Stefanie Sarantopoulos. Pictured left to right: Tanya Helms, ABMT NP; Woman of the Year Stefanie Sarantopoulos, MD; Martha Lassiter, ABMT nurse clinician; last year's Woman of the Year Arati Rao, MD; and Jennifer Frith, ABMT clinic nurse manager.
“I've learned that I’m the luckiest person in the world because of my family,” shared Sarantopoulos, whose extended family in Arizona held separate fundraisers to help boost Sarantopoulos’s totals. “My husband, Cyrus, is the most genuinely selfless and supportive person I know. Despite running his own lab, for more than 20 years he has always been there to support and offer sage advice. And I saw in tangible ways that my two 11-year-old kids, Cali and Alex, are not only empathic and kind, but they are also incredibly mature and capable.”
The Leukemia Lymphoma Society funds about $1.2 million in research grants at Duke each year. Funds raised through the national and local Man and Woman of the Year campaigns help to provide financial aid families affected by leukemia, lymphoma or myeloma and support LLS research grants across the country, including Duke.
Together, through the 2016 Man and Woman of the Year campaign, the 15 nominees raised $973,000, almost $400,000 more than in 2015. For more information about LLS, visit The Leukemia Lymphoma Society. Fundraising for Man and Woman of the Year continues through June. To donate, visit Stefanie Sarantopoulos.