Tennis event raises $75K

By Nicole Santa Cruz
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday, October 17, 2005

Tennis enthusiasts raised more than just a racquet over the weekend at a benefit for the study of a new pediatric cancer drug where more than $75,000 was raised.

The UA Steele Children's Research center hosted Raise a Racquet, a two-day tennis benefit at the Tucson Racquet and Fitness Club, to raise money for research of a new cancer drug.

The drug, 17AAG, is in phase one of clinical trials, which helps doctors evaluate how effective the drug is at certain doses, said Rochelle Bagatell, assistant professor of pediatrics at Steele Children's Research Center.

The toxic effects that chemotherapy has on the body may be lessened by 17AAG, and it also promises to be a more effective way of treating cancer, Bagatell said.

Raise a Racquet included a Friday night dinner, entertainment and auction, and also a Saturday morning tennis tournament, said Anne Fritz, a former tennis pro turned molecular biologist.

Fritz, a UA alum, said she was pleased with the turnout this year, and said she can attribute the success of the fundraiser to word of mouth and also because people feel the event is a fun and entertaining way to do something worthwhile for cancer research.

"It's a win-win situation," Fritz said. "They feel good about it, and they're having fun. It's a good formula."

Fritz said she started the event because she has always wanted to do something for charity, and after working in labs with other researchers, she thought pediatric cancer research would be something rewarding to contribute to.

"We won't find better cures for disease without research," Fritz said.

Significant work on the drug has been done at the UA's Steele Children's Research Center, but the drug is also being studied at nine other research institutions and hospitals around the U.S. including Johns Hopkins University and Vanderbilt University, Bagatell said.

"It's a drug that we have some intellectual input on," Bagatell said.

Bagatell said this study also represents an effort to do something new in cancer research and also something here in Tucson.

"We're bringing access to new drugs to people right here in Tucson," Bagatell said.

Bagatell said cancer patients sometimes don't have the money or resources to move to bigger cities where different treatments are available.

"Making drugs like this available to people who otherwise would be without is pretty neat," Bagatell said.