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Around Town: Dreaming of a world without cancer

January 05, 2011|By Anita Susan Brenner

In 2004, our son, 2nd. Lt. Andrew Torres, USMC, died of cancer. He was 23 years old. Andrew was a graduate of the United States Naval Academy (Class of 2002), a Marine and a fine person. In the hours before his death, he asked us, his family and friends, to support cancer research.

We initially supported treatment-oriented research at the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center in Los Angeles.

A few of Andrew's friends wanted to do more. The first Torres Memorial Golf Classic was held in April 2005. The Sixth Torres Memorial Golf Classic will be held on Monday, May 16, at the La Cañada Flintridge Country Club.

So far, prior events have netted more than $270,000 for cancer research at Huntington Medical Research Institutes ("HMRI"), a non-profit independent research facility.

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The first five tournaments supported research directed toward finding a simple blood test to predict liver cancer. We picked a research project that had no other funding. We were amazed at what a small amount money could accomplish. Last fall, a peer-reviewed journal called Disease Markers published the results of the research.

In the journal's article, the HMRI scientists described how something called alpha fetoprotein enhancer binding protein (AFPebp) becomes elevated with hepatitis, but falls when liver cancer begins. AFPebp is known to suppress cancer, and its falling levels may be part of what allows cancer to appear. More work is needed to identify a sensitive and reliable early biomarker for liver cancer, but this research is an important step forward.

The research project focused on hepatitis patients. Andrew did not have hepatitis, but we have never been wedded to the idea of limiting our support to his exact situation.

Nor do we limit our efforts to any particular type of solid-tumor cancer. Rusty Robertson, a founder of Stand Up To Cancer, has famously noted the need to end the "Balkanization of body parts." Her point was this: Don't limit your donations to the type of cancer that struck down your friend. The solution may not be in a popular cancer. The solution may be in a rare cancer, like pancreatic cancer.

It is a new year and we have redoubled our efforts. The Torres Memorial Golf Classic will return. We have a new research project in mind.

We dream of a world without cancer.

ANITA SUSAN BRENNER is a longtime La Cañada Flintridge resident and an attorney with Law Offices of Torres and Brenner in Pasadena. E-mail her at anitasusan.brenner@yahoo.com. For more information about the Torres Golf Classic, call (626) 792-3175 or see http://www.andrewtorres.org.

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