Special to the Hellenic News of America
If we want to defeat COVID and destroy “the monster” cancer, which has taken the lives of so many loved ones, we need to support science, medical research, and the medical community, now, more than ever.
We need to support each other, love each other, and pray to our almighty God.
Eleni Bousis speaks from experience.
Her mother was treated with cutting-edge medicines developed by Athens-born cancer researcher, Dr. Leonidas C. Platanias, Dr. Talman, and their scientific team.
Dr. Platanias is director of the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University and he has assembled a dynamic, world-renowned team doing amazing “think outside the box” research on all types of cancers.
Bousis said her mother was diagnosed with a rare cancer, AML, or acute myeloid leukemia. It was a lethal form of cancer with a life expectancy of two to five months.
“She became the advocate of a trial drug that was invented by this amazing team.”
“My mother went on a trial drug which saved her life and she lived on for 17 years. Along with her, many thousands of people across the world were saved.”
Another example. Bousis’ aunt had lymphoma. She went on a trial drug and it saved her life. “She’s already lived for 22 years.”
So it was easy for Bousis in 2015 to found and chair the Hippocratic Cancer Research Foundation, with many dedicated and committed individuals in Chicago, raising funds that will help scientists eradicate all types of cancer.
The Foundation has raised millions of dollars in funding to help the research scientists at the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center. While most of the research focuses on cancer, recent efforts have also been made in the battle against COVID-19.
The pandemic has made it hard for many organizations to raise money, events are canceled and people have lost their jobs and livelihoods due to COVID.
The Foundation’s ‘The Wings to Cure’ Gala went virtual this year.
The gala raised over $600,000.
“The opportunity of doing a virtual gala gave our supporters the ability to focus on what our Doctors and Scientists are doing without any distractions,” Bousis says.
Here are some examples of the research that HCRF funding is helping:
- Identifying cellular pathways that affect all cancers.
- Identifying promising new drug targets for brain cancer.
- Discovering new pancreatic cancer pathways, opening new treatment options.
- Launching innovative clinical trials for all types of cancer, providing patients with the best fighting chance against their cancer.
- Developing novel treatments for hematological malignancies. Contributing to the development of COVID antibody testing.
- Developing strategies to help curb the spread of the pandemic and protect the public’s health.
- Identifying potential targets for COVID antiviral therapy.
“I believe in research,” Bousis says. “Every penny that we raise goes directly to research and groundbreaking clinical trials that have never taken place before.”
It’s an opportune moment in medical research. Technology now supports the research and makes progress faster and data less complex. What was impossible years ago is now possible.
“It’s technology, science, doctors, everyone is united, making things move faster than ever before.”
A look at COVID
Bousis is worried about the impact of COVID on cancer patients and those with a preexisting medical condition.
Studies show cancer deaths are 20 percent higher during the pandemic compared to pre-pandemic times.
Patients put off going to doctors and hospitals for fear of catching the virus, she says.
She also worries about the economic and mental health impact of lockdowns to contain the virus. She hears stories and sees statistics showing an increase in suicides and wife and child abuse in the home.
Children, especially, are being harmed by the isolation.
“Kids need to be around their peers. They need to socialize. They need interaction one on one.”
The solutions to the COVID problem, she says, should come from scientists working globally, not politicians.
And, she adds, “What is impossible by man is possible with the grace of God.”
“We all have to look back on our humble beginnings of loving the Lord and loving each other,” she says.
That means helping the less fortunate, especially now with the stresses of a COVID pandemic.
“I think if all of us were responsible to help one family or one person, I think we would live in a carefree world,” she says.
It’s time to step up and help all those economically devastated by the pandemic—like the owners and workers at the estimated 20,000 restaurants that have closed in the Chicagoland area.
Or the increased number of homeless on the streets and mothers with small children who struggle.
“I know organizations are suffering but at the same time it is our obligation as Christians and as human beings to help each other through this horrible crisis.”
Her early years
Bousis’ philanthropic work derives from her parents.
They were poor and uneducated, her father was an orphan who was raised on the streets.
“What my father taught me was…you have two hands, one that gives and one that takes – you should always be the hand that gives.”
And he would reiterate, “I will curse you if you ever see someone in need and do not feed or clothe them.”
Her parents believed first in giving, second in the grace of God, “to love and honor God and respect everything that God gives you, the good with the bad.”
The heart of cancer research
Bousis says she believes in the scientists because they believe in their cause. “I asked one of the scientists how many hours he puts into his work. He says, ‘I never look at the clock.’”
All he looks at is how he can eradicate cancer.
And when a trial drug doesn’t work, it feels like losing a child because that scientist worked day and night on that drug.
These researchers want to make a difference in humanity, “When you see their commitment, you want to raise more awareness and money to support their efforts.” Bousis says.
Bousis, an advocate for immunotherapy, stem cell research, and clinical trial drugs, says the Foundation now plans to spread the word about trial research.
“We are going to be focusing on trials that will have an impact across the whole world,” she says. “We believe that unless you do research on trial drugs you will never know what is possible and what is not possible.”
She’s going to keep at it until everyone is cured. “My goal is to continue to fund all this research until we find a cure for cancer. I’m very optimistic.”
She also has faith. “I want to believe that God has a purpose for everything. With the team that Dr. Platanias has created I really believe that there is hope.”
Find out more about the work at the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center and how to donate to the Hippocratic Cancer Research Foundation by clicking on this website.