Gray Matters: 'Angels' Event Raises $3 Million for Brain Tumor Research

Carrying the banner: Brain tumor survivors Cristie Felix, Ed Mann, Jodi Novak, Rebecca Gutierrez, Sabrina Lewandowski, and Sally Grant

The Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center celebrates 85 years of brain tumor care at Duke

Image Caption
Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center staff (l to r) Daniel Rudd, RN; Susanne Jacobs, MSN, FNP-BC; Janye Blivin, MSN, RN; Rosemary Ketring, BSN, RN, OCN; Casey Brown, DNP, AGPCNP-BC, RN

And they're off... Angels Among Us 2022

WTVD Channel 11 interviews David Turno, an Aiken, SC police officer

Turno lost his brother to a brain tumor at age 13. 35 years later, he received the same diagnosis. He recently advocated for SC to support a state license plate to raise funds for cancer research. His wish came true.

"Drivers for a Cure" license plates are for sale in SC to benefit cancer research at Duke Cancer Institute and MUSC Hollings Cancer Center, thanks in part to brain tumor survivor David Turno, who was treated at the Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center

SEA OF SURVIVORS & SUPPORTERS Survivors John Aman (center in blue), Andy Foppe (in green, right), and Amanda Rose (center right)

Brain tumor survivor Ed Mann raises his hand in triumph in the 5K; in front of him, "Because Gray Matters" teammate and supporter Debra Schaeffer

Cary pediatrician and Duke Med alumna Shefali Parmar, MD

8-year brain tumor survivor and Raleigh resident Nicholas Marchione, 11, running the 5K


Parmar Family and neurosurgeon Peter Fecci, MD, PhD

Survivor Nicholas Marchione, 11, doesn't have an Angels Among Us team — he is running as an individual — but his brother and parents are behind him all the way

Marchione Family: Survivor Nicholas Marchione is second from right with his mother Jen

Brain tumor survivor Mary Hogue crosses the finish line

Survivors Jennifer Costello, Nestor Paonessa, and Tom O'Donnell

All Smiles

(from left) Kevin Doyle with Team "101% Possible"; David Ashley, PhD, MBBS, director of the Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center; Tom O'Donnell, brain tumor survivor and captain Team "101% Possible"; DCI neurosurgeon Peter Fecci, MD, PhD

Carrying the banner: Brain tumor survivors Cristie Felix, Ed Mann, Jodi Novak, Rebecca Gutierrez, Sabrina Lewandowski, and Sally Grant

21-year survivor Jodi Novak and survivor Ed Mann

Brain tumor survivors Ed Mann, Jodi Novak, and Sally Grant

13-year brain tumor survivor Sally Grant

Brain tumor survivor Rachel Grady and her husband at the event photo booth

Bree Carnes with Team "Battlin’ for Bob"

Brain tumor survivor Anna Zeng with Meg Lombardi Zeng

Brain tumor survivor Cristie Felix and her grandbaby

Cristie's Crusaders support brain tumor survivor Cristie Felix (far left)

Cristie Felix's supporters mark her 5-year cancer-versary

Pediatric brain tumor survivors Randall Saladin, Ashlynn Suter, Ridge Riley, Katie Doyle, and Myla Lambert

Pediatric brain tumor survivors Randall Saladin, Ashlynn Suter, and Ridge Riley

"Team Ashlyn" supporters

pediatric brain tumor survivor Ridge Riley and family

pediatric brain tumor survivor Randall Saladin

Neuro-oncologist Annick Desjardins, MD (center) with Team "Ray of Hope"

Neuro-oncologist Katy Peters, MD, PhD, and neuro-oncologist Henry Friedman, MD, on emcee duty

A young caregiver

Neurosurgeon Allan Friedman, MD

Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center faculty staff reveal the magic number. Angels Among Us raised $3.3 million at this year's event.

Backstage with neuro-oncologist Henry Friedman, MD, BTC director David Ashley, MBBS, PhD, and neurosurgeon Allan Friedman, MD

Darrell Bigner, MD, PhD, PRTBTC Director Emeritus, presents Fancy Hogan with top fundraising award as doctors Allan Friedman, Peter Fecci, Dan Landi, and Justin Low look on

Peter Fecci, MD, PhD, and Mustafa Khasraw, MD, ham it up at the photo booth

“MET Your Match” — the Duke Center for Brain and Spine Metastasis staff team — was the second biggest team and raised over $9K

Natalie Ashley, RN, of Team "Met Your Match" with her daughter

Team "Gettin' Jiggy With It" celebrates survivor Jiggy Kilpatrick (above the star before "among") When she was diagnosed with a brain tumor 20 years ago she was only given 18 months to live.

Brain tumor survivor Jiggy Kilpatrick (top right) and family

Be sure to fully cycle through the slide show of 50 photos, above!

Rachel Grady
More than 2,000 people, including Team "Tumor Fighters" (foreground) took to the streets through Duke University's campus to raise funds and awareness for brain cancer/brain tumors on April 30, 2022.

May is Brain Cancer Awareness Month. The Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center (PRTBTC) at Duke Cancer Institute — which is celebrating its 85th year — urges everyone to "Go Gray in May for brain cancer awareness."

Some 26,000 people in the U.S. are expected to be diagnosed with primary brain cancer and other nervous system cancers this year and more than 18,000 will die of these cancers.

About 63,000 people will be diagnosed with benign (non-cancerous) brain tumors. (About 70% of all primary brain tumors are benign)

On April 30, the Center held its first full-scale "Angels Among Us 5K and Walk of Hope" event since the COVID-19 pandemic began two years ago — raising $3,317,088 to advance brain tumor research at Duke.

More than 2,600 supporters came together on the Duke University campus — an overcast day with a bit of a chill — to celebrate adult and pediatric brain tumor survivors and honor those whose lives were taken by the disease. The gray day began with a 5K run through campus, followed by a "Walk of HOPE" around the medical center campus and the Duke Gardens. A family-friendly event, there were fun activities for children and kids at heart, including face-painting and play structures on which to bounce and climb, and tasty treats to sample like gourmet popcorn and beignets.

There were smiles and cheers, old friends and new friends, pioneers in the field and rising stars, patients, survivors, supporters... and HOPE.

photo credits: Jim Shaw Photography (non-photobooth photos) and Denise Hess (photobooth photos)


Brain Tumors Explainer: In Brief from AACR

There are many types of brain and spinal cord tumors. The tumors are formed by the abnormal growth of cells and may be either benign or malignant. Benign brain and spinal cord tumors grow and press on nearby areas of the brain. They rarely spread into other tissues and may recur. 

Malignant brain and spinal cord tumors are likely to grow quickly and spread into other brain tissue. 

When a tumor grows into or presses on an area of the brain, it may stop that part of the brain from working the way it should. Both benign and malignant brain tumors produce signs and symptoms and need treatment.

Tumors that start in the brain are called primary brain tumors. Primary brain tumors may spread to other parts of the brain or to the spine, but rarely spread to other parts of the body.

Often, tumors found in the brain have started somewhere else in the body and spread to one or more parts of the brain. These are called metastatic brain tumors.

Source: AACR 2022

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