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Alliance Beverage donation to support melanoma research at ASU

group of men holding large check for $25,000
December 24, 2014

Most Arizona golfers know that they should guard against the risks of skin cancer. But few realize that Arizona has some of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world.

This year, hundreds of golfers at the Alliance Beverage Charity Golf Classic are helping raise awareness and advance research. Their donation of $25,000 to Arizona State University's Biodesign Institute will help accelerate the development of a technology aimed at detecting melanoma – the deadliest of all skin cancers – earlier.

“The sunshine state brings tremendous beauty and plenty of outdoor fun, but there’s a downside – a greater risk of skin cancer,” said Gary Lederer, executive vice president for the Alliance Beverage Distributing Company, based in Phoenix and Tucson. “Since our business thrives on serving the people of Arizona, we want to do our part to help others avoid the pain and sorrow that cancer can bring.”

Arizona has some of the highest rates of skin cancer in the world. It is estimated by the American Cancer Society that there will be approximately 1,400 new cases of melanoma in the state in 2014.

Since 1988, Alliance has sponsored the golf outing and silent auction, donating more than $2.3 million over the past 10 years to benefit an array of community organizations.

“Seed funding, like this, is crucial to our research and can help our scientists move things along faster,” said Raymond DuBois, executive director of the Biodesign Institute. “It means a lot to us to have the interest and support from local businesses and their employees.”

This is the second year that Alliance Beverage has supported the institute's cancer research. Alliance Beverage became acquainted with the ASU Biodesign Institute through Fox10 sports anchor Jude LaCava and the Dorothy Foundation, an organization that LaCava and his sister founded to honor their mother and to find cures for cancer faster.

Last year’s gift was presented by Alliance Beverage and the Dorothy Foundation to enable Joshua LaBaer and his team at Biodesign’s Virginia G. Piper Center for Personalized Diagnostics to access patient samples and data that will facilitate earlier cancer diagnoses.

“What we’re trying to do is to support the great thinkers here at ASU Biodesign and get behind what we think is some of the most innovative research in the country,” said LaCava, who is a strong advocate for open science, an approach in which data and discoveries are made more widely available to patients and researchers to arrive at solutions.

The funds will be used to determine the applicability of a new technology to diagnose melanomas earlier than currently possible.

ASU researcher Stephen Albert Johnston, co-director of the Biodesign Institute's Center for Innovations in Medicine, patented a process called immunosignaturing, a breakthrough in faster and easier diagnosis of a number of diseases.

“We can take one little drop of blood and process that on a chip that we make with an Intel-like process," explained Johnston. "From that one drop of blood, we can identify the signature of [the patient's] disease status, potentially at very early stages. We’ve applied the test to other types of cancers, but this will be the first time we’ll be looking at melanoma. The earlier the diagnosis, the better chance we have of treating and combating the disease.”