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May 16, 2013

Progress to be focus of Relay for Life speech

Guest speaker for opening ceremony announced

By Michelle Miller The Cooperstown Crier
Cooperstown Crier

---- — The American Cancer Society is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. During those years, cancer has transformed from deadly to treatable and from treatable to preventable.

That progress will be the focus of Bassett Healthcare’s physician and chief of radiation oncology Dr. Timothy Campbell’s speech on Friday. Organizers of the Cooperstown/Otsego County Relay For Life recently announced he will be the guest speaker at the event’s opening ceremony set to begin at 6 p.m.

Campbell said when looking back at what has happened within the last 30 to 40 years there have been significant advancements. However, he added: “People think the word cancer has gone nowhere because we do not have a cure, but it is really a very complicated disease. It is not just one disease, it is hundreds of diseases.” 

There probably will not be one big cure, but instead multiple ones, according to the doctor. He said there have been “huge” improvements in survival rates. 

“There are just many, many people now who will be diagnosed with cancer and can be cured with what we can do that wasn’t available in 1970,” Campbell said. 

Cancer survival rates, according to the American Cancer Society, have increased from 49 percent in 1975 to 67 percent in 2012. Improvement is credited to progress in diagnosing cancer at earlier stages and advancements in cancer treatment.

Campbell said Bassett has a clinical trial program that can get patients into most trials that are available nationally. He said cure rates for children with cancer are much higher than for others because they are primarily treated through clinical trials.

“There are a number of groups out there, and the American Cancer Society is certainly one of them, that support clinical trial work and that is really the future of getting that, quote, cure,” he said. 

The American Cancer Society has invested more than $3.3 billion in cancer research since the program began in 1946. In New York State alone, 95 cancer research grants totaling $49 million dollars are currently in effect, according to a media release from the organization. 

Relay For Life is sponsored by the American Cancer Society and is the world’s largest movement to end cancer. It encompasses fundraising, awareness and education. 

The event is an overnight celebration where pre-formed team members take turns walking around a track “relay” style. The first one was held in 1985 with a doctor who walked a track for 24 hours raising $27,000 for his local American Cancer Society in Tacoma, Wash. This year, Relay For Life festivities are set to take place in more than 6,000 communities. 

This is the 15th year for the Cooperstown/Otsego County Relay For Life, which will be held Friday and Saturday at the Cooperstown Dreams Park. Last year’s event raised a record setting $112,000.

Campbell, who has worked for Bassett since 2005, said he is looking forward to this year’s festivities. The doctor said he is generally out of town during the dates of the local event and is glad to be included this year.   

“It is really important to our patients,” he said. “I think it is very moving for people to see just how many people are affected by the disease. It is also good to see how many people are alive and doing well.”

As a physician, Campbell said he is very much appreciative that money raised is used to help local patients.

According to statistics provided by organizers, the American Cancer Society was able to provide 260 services for patients in Otsego County last year. These services were for such things as patients staying at Hope Lodge while receiving treatment, women who received free wigs for those who lost their hair because of treatments, participation in programs like “Look Good Feel Better” sessions and “Man to Man” prostate cancer support groups.

For more information, call Carla Eckler at (315) 858-1451, Teri Sammis at 547-2949 or Helen Gregory at the American Cancer Society at 1 (800)227-2345 or visit