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Blog Entries - 2015

"Laissez les bons temps rouler" February 6th at the Mardi Gras MASKerade!

The online box office opened today, December 1st, for tickets to Brandon's Foundation's first annual Mardi Gras MASKerade! This rollicking fundraising event takes place February 6, 2016 - the Saturday before Ash Wednesday - from 7:30 p.m. to Midnight at the 20th Century Theater in Oakley (3021 Madison Road, Cincinnati, OH 45209) Free valet parking will be available. The evening will feature musical entertainment by Dan Dorff Trio and DJ Court Jester Mark Santangelo! Tarot card readers will predict guests’ futures and an event photographer will snap keepsake photos. Guests may compete in the costume contest to determine who wins the crowns of MASKerade King and Queen. If you're not the costume contest type, "regular" attire is also welcome. (Masks and beads will be provided!) Other highlights include a silent auction, raffle baskets, split the pot, wine & craft beer raffles and more! And the signature beverage will be enjoyed in a souvenir Hurricane glass. 

Purchase tickets TODAY to take advantage of the Early Bird price of $50 per ticket. This special price is only in effect for the first 50 tickets. After these are gone, the standard price is $75 per ticket. 

Mardi Gras MASKerade sponsors will receive special treatment at the event! For information about sponsorship opportunities, contact Brandon's Foundation.

Don't miss out! Join us February 6th when we "laissez les bond temps rouler" while raising funds for head and neck cancer research! 

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Announcing the 2015 Research Grant Recipients

Posted on: June 2, 2015 9:00 pm
Tags: Head and neck cancer, Research, Grant recipients, Fundraising

Funds will go to head and neck cancer researchers at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine and the University of California, San Diego

Brandon C. Gromada died of head and neck cancer at the age of 38 three years ago today, June 2, 2012. It seems fitting that the foundation named for him announces its 2015 research grants on this third anniversary of his death. The recipients of the two grants are Nooshin Hashemi, M.D. and El Mustapha Bahassi, Ph.D. of the University of Cincinnati (UC) College of Medicine, and Rutherford (Weg) M. Ongkeko, M.D., Ph.D. of the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). 

The UC College of Medicine researchers are being awarded a $20,000 grant to study "Pharmacogenomic Profiling of Circulating Tumor Cells to Guide Head and Neck Cancer Therapy." A $15,000 grant will provide seed funding for Dr. Ongkeko’s research, "Characterization of Long Non-coding RNA in Poorly Differentiated Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma," at UCSD. The recipients of both grants expressed similar themes when notified their research projects were chosen for the two grants. They noted the difficulties for those seeking funding for head and neck cancer research. According to Dr. Bahassi, "Generous gifts from foundations like yours are becoming essential as research funding is facing daunting challenges." All reiterated Dr. Ongkeko’s pledge to use the funds wisely in order to better understand head and neck cancer and explore treatments that "ultimately find a cure for this unforgiving disease."

The foundation’s grant selection process takes time and effort. A “request for proposals” is made early in the year. Each submitted proposal is then sent to several experts in the field of head and neck cancer who volunteer their time to review and rate various merits of a proposal. (Submitted proposals are “blinded,” so reviewers do not know a researcher’s name.) The foundation’s board of directors uses the reviewers’ ratings to guide the final selection of projects for funding.

About Head and Neck Cancer

"Cancer of the head and neck, which includes oral cancer, receives little public attention," said Karen Gromada, chairperson of the foundation’s board of directors and Brandon’s mother, “although it is among the most common – and the most deadly – cancers in the United States.” The sixth most common cancer in the United States, its incidence has risen significantly in the last one to two decades among those 25-50 years of age. Usually a form of squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), head and neck cancer’s low 50% five-year survival rate has changed little for decades.  The goal of Brandon's foundation is to provide funding for innovative head and neck cancer research, which will result in cures and more effective, less-debilitating treatments while also raising awareness about the disease. The Gromadas want to end the devastation of head and neck cancer so "no other family will have to deal with the sadness we will always feel with Brandon’s death."

Join us now to HEAD 4 A Cure! Donate today and help end head and neck cancer tomorrow.

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April is Head & Neck Cancer Awareness Month

Five years ago - April 2010 - I'd never heard of Head & Neck Cancer Awareness Month, although our family had recently become acquainted with head and neck cancer. Only a few weeks earlier Brandon called with news that brought me, his mother, to my knees. I vividly remember where I was and what I was doing as he explained that one of the several nasal polyps he'd had removed a few days before had shown "poorly differentiated - or undifferentiated - squamous cell cancer" in his right maxillary sinus. One moment I was standing, the next I was not. My knees and my mind had buckled. But hey, how bad could this be? Surely, it was treatable. Cancer treatment had come so far.

The pathology findings from the examination of the nasal polyps were discussed by the University of Cincinnati Cancer Institute's tumor board. Surgery, a maxillectomy, was scheduled for later in March, and the head and neck surgeon told Brandon they would do what was needed to remove the cancer, which could include the creation of cleft palate, the removal of his right eye, or removal part of his jaw and/or nose. The cancer was found on a single turbinate bone at the nasal area of the sinus and that bone was removed. The mucus membrane was stripped from the right maxillary sinus and sent to Pathology for microscopic examination. No other evidence of disease was discovered. We all breathed deep sighs of relief. Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Month came and went without our realization that April was designated as such.

Then during an early August follow-up appointment, a resident palpated enlarged lymph nodes on the left side of Brandon's neck and found a "spot" at the back of his throat. A biopsy showed more of the same poorly differentiated, HPV-negative squamous cell cancer (SCC). A PET (positron emission tomography) scan found no other "hot spots" below the neck, so everyone felt positive as he dove into the whirlwind of port (port-a-cath) insertion for chemotherapy, fitting for his specially molded radiation mask, and the two months of the common brutal treatment for most head and neck cancers -pinpointed radiation 5 days a week for 7 to 8 consecutive weeks combined with chemotherapy every 2 to 3 weeks. (The blog photo of a smiling Brandon was taken at the end of the chemo-radiation combo. His port is visible just below is right collarbone and the radiation burns are obvious.)  Radiation resulted in burns outside and in, affected and thickened mucus production, caused his sense of taste to change. Chemotherapy damaged his hearing, produced strange tastes in his mouth, upset his digestive system in all ways imaginable. He chose to wait and see if he'd need a percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy (PEG) feeding tube, which many, if not most, on the treatment journey for head and neck cancer now receive prior to treatment. None of us know how he continued to eat and drink throughout treatment, but he did, and he never shared how difficult it must have been. 

The post-treatment PET scan revealed new "hot spots" on a rib and his femur. He learned he was to become a father while undergoing radiation treatment for the new spots. The afternoon of his last radiation treatment, he hopped a jet to Paris to meet his wife, who was already there for business, for a long Easter weekend in the city of love and lights. They made the most of every moment. They welcomed daughter Morgan on December 3, 2011. Meanwhile, Brandon fought more and more "hot spots." Different forms of traditional and trial chemotherapy agents were tried. Each caused new and more uncomfortable side effects. None made an impact. He was fitted for a new radiation mask when "spots" appeared in his brain. The disease continued to march through his body, quickly overwhelming body systems. He died June 2, 2012. His father and I founded Brandon's Foundation the next day.

Head and neck cancer receives very little attention compared to many others. It is thought to be an old person's disease related to a lifetime of tobacco or alcohol use. However, the number of people affected by some form of head and neck cancer is growing and this growth is mainly among younger adults. Part of it is related to the same forms of HPV that cause most cervical cancer, but HPV does not account for many other cases. It is estimated that almost 46,000 will be diagnosed with some form of head and neck cancer during 2015 alone - that is about 125 persons each day being told they have this cancer. It's anticipated that more than 8600 of those journeying with head and neck in this country will die this year. 

Don't forget your own screening for head and neck cancer, as early detection can make the difference. Be sure a thorough head and neck cancer screening is part of every dental check up. If you're in the Cincinnati area, call (513) 475-8400 to reserve a spot for a free screening by the University of Cincinnati Health Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery at the Barrett Cancer Center Area F from 8:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. on April 16. Last year the team performed approximately 230 screenings of which 17 required referred for follow up. 

Screening and early detection are only one part of the head and neck cancer picture. it is time to change the survival statistics and it is time for treatments that have fewer debilitating side effects. Only research can find the treatments and cures that will allow other families to never know the kind of loss we feel without Brandon in our lives. His Foundation's Request for Proposals was sent to researchers in February and many proposal submissions arrived by the March 27 deadline. Next week we begin sending these proposals out for "blind" reviewers by experts in the field of head and neck cancer. An announcement of the 2015 grant awards is to be made June 2, 2015 - the third anniversary of the date of Brandon's death.

PLEASE help us fund the research that will put an end to head and neck cancer. DONATE now so Brandon's Foundation may expand the number and amount of grant funding available for promising research projects. And the next time you sit down for a meal - the next time you enjoy the aromas and flavors of your food, the next time your mouth is moist enough and your throat is undamaged so that you don't have to even think about swallowing and easily passing food from your mouth down your throat to your stomach - think about Brandon and all those who are or have been on the head and neck cancer journey with him.

 

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Happy 2015

Posted on: January 9, 2015 9:00 pm
Tags: Head & neck cancer, Research, Grant awards, Happy 2015

Thank you to all who have contributed to Brandon's Foundation, allowing us to award two grants during 2014! With your help Brandon's Foundation will be able to provide more grant funding in 2015!

There are no words to express what your support to fight this disease means to those who love and miss Brandon. 

A happy and healthy 2015 to you all!

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