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  September 10, 2001

Charity Pledges to Support
Health Center's Cancer Research

The organization that sponsors the novel fundraiser "Giant Steps for Research" in Hartford has announced it is raising $80,000 in grants this year for Health Center programs.

Lea's Foundation for Leukemia Research Inc. has donated $40,000 to cancer research at the Health Center over the last couple of years. The money will support the work of Drs. Pramod Srivastava and Joan Caron.

"This is a good match for the Health Center," says Frank Gifford, director of corporate and foundation relations. "Cancer research and treatment is one of the Health Center signature programs. Dr. Srivastava and Dr. Caron are engaged in exciting, innovative research and Lea's Foundation's generous commitment builds upon an existing strength."

Lea's Foundation sponsors a number of events throughout the year, but the best known is Giant Steps for Research, a stair-climbing extravaganza at City Place in Hartford. Individuals and teams solicit pledges to be paid for the stairs they climb. City Place has 37 flights of stairs, 814 steps.

This year's event, which will take place on Sept. 30 from 9 a.m. to noon, is being hosted by Hartford firefighters and Hartford police. The honorary chair of the event is Gary Craig of 96.5 WTIC-FM's morning drivetime program "Craig and Company." Prizes are awarded in a number of categories for the most money raised by participants.

Lea's Foundation for Leukemia Research was formed in 1998 to honor the memory of Lea Economos, of West Hartford, who lost her battle with leukemia in 1992 at the age of 28, after an unsuccessful bone marrow transplant. The goal of the foundation is to help fund a cure for leukemia and the related diseases of lymphoma, Hodgkin's disease and myeloma and to promote public awareness of leukemia.

The funds raised through special events, including an annual Valentines Day Ball, a golf tournament, the stair climb, and several formal dinners throughout the year, provide grant money to promising researchers. In addition, the foundation makes scholarship funds available to pre-school leukemia patients who wish to attend nursery school.

In cancer research, donations make a significant difference. In the past year, thanks to support from Lea's Foundation, Caron completed the initial phase of her studies on a novel mechanism for anti-cancer drugs that target microtubules in cells. With support this year, she has begun the second phase of these studies using human leukemic cells and the effect of the anti-cancer/microtubul e drug, vinblastine.

Srivastava, also a researcher at the Health Center, received a grant renewal for his work on immunotherapy. This work is based on the use of heat shock proteins purified from a patient's tumor which, when injected like a vaccine, can elicit strong immune response reaction. The application of this approach to human lymphoma was supported by the grant.

"We've supported leukemia research for a number of years," says Bess Economos, Lea's mother and a member of the Lea's Foundation board. "We raise money from Connecticut people, so we thought we should support research being done here in Connecticut that will help the people who live here.

"The Health Center's research programs are excellent and we are happy to support them," she adds.

In addition to Lea's mother, the foundation's board includes her father and brother, and about 15 other directors, mostly younger people.

"Lea's Foundation is a new face of philanthropic giving in Hartford," says Gifford. "Their youth, enthusiasm and innovation have had a positive effect way beyond their three short years of existence."

There's still time to participate in the stair climb. Call the foundation at (860) 727-8998 for information.

Pat Keefe

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