Firefighters pitch in for Knight fight against cancer


Knight Unite
UNITE AGAINST CANCER, At Station #4 near Portland State University, Oregon State Fire Fighters Council president Kelly Bach greets Lisa Coussens, Ph.D., associate director of basic research at OHSU Knight Cancer Institute.

Unite for the Knight, a coalition of unions and businesses working together to raise money for Oregon Health & Science University’s Knight Cancer Institute, got a $21,000 boost from the Oregon State Fire Fighters Council on March 25.

The funds were contributed by firefighters from 18 locals throughout the state. It is the largest donation among unions, which have helped raise nearly $1 million for the United for the Knight campaign.

The Knight Cancer Challenge was launched last year when Nike co-founder Phil Knight and his wife, Penny, pledged to donate $500 million for cancer research if OHSU raised an equal amount in two years.

“Our members have a significantly higher incidence of cancer than the general population,” said Kelly Bach, president of the Oregon State Fire Fighters Council. “This is an issue that hits close to home for many of Oregon’s firefighters.”

A 2014 report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that firefighters are susceptible to mesothelioma at twice the expected rate. Mesothelioma is an aggressive and rare cancer affecting the lining of the lungs and abdomen.

“More than the general population, we get cancer due to our job exposure,” Bach said. “It was easy to fundraise because members from almost every department know members who have had cancer.”

OHSU will use the money to try to find smarter, faster ways to detect cancer earlier, when the disease is most curable, said Lisa Coussens, Ph.D., associate director of basic research at OHSU Knight Cancer Institute.  Coussens, OHSU’s lead mesothelioma researcher, is working to advance the understanding of what drives cancer, in particular the role immune cells play in the disease.

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