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Motivated by experience

Randy Shaver and Roseann Giovanatto-Shaver have been raising money for cancer initiatives through a celebrity golf tournament for more than a decade.

Shavers raise money for cancer research, benefiting the community that supported them

Many families have been affected by cancer in some way. But in 1997 and 1998, it hit the family of KARE 11 sports anchor Randy Shaver especially hard. Within 11 months, Roseann Giovanatto-Shaver, Randy’s wife, was diagnosed with melanoma, Roseann’s mother was diagnosed with uterine cancer, and Randy was diagnosed with stage 4 Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

But even before cancer and treatment became big parts of their own lives, the Shavers were raising money for cancer research through the MoneyGram International Randy Shaver Celebrity Golf Classic. They have supported cancer initiatives in the community since 1994, and in the last four years, the Randy Shaver Cancer Research and Community Fund has directed more than $350,000 to cancer-related projects at the University of Minnesota.

“When Randy had cancer, it was the community that supported him and us,” Giovanatto-Shaver says. “We want to allocate our funding to specific researchers or specific technology that will benefit this community.”

John Ohlfest, Ph.D., an assistant professor and director of the University’s Translational Gene Therapy Program in the Department of Neurosurgery, received a $40,000 grant from the Shaver fund this year to study a vaccine to treat a fatal type of brain tumor that is resistant to all conventional therapies.

The funding has allowed Ohlfest to evaluate the vaccine in a mouse model. He and his research team have found that the vaccine is killing tumors—with little or no evidence of toxic side effects. In the foreseeable future, Ohlfest hopes to try the vaccine in a clinical trial with human patients.

John Ohlfest, Ph.D., used a grant from the Shaver fund to test a vaccine on a currently untreatable type of brain tumor.

The Shaver grant also played a key role in helping Ohlfest secure additional funding from the National Institutes of Health to continue studying the vaccine.

“This has been an incredibly successful project—beyond my expectations,” Ohlfest says.

Patricia Judson, M.D., an assistant professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Women’s Health, also received about $40,000 from the Shaver fund this year to study whether complementary medicine would benefit women with ovarian cancer.

Judson hopes to determine whether therapies like clinical hypnosis, therapeutic massage, and healing touch improve quality of life and lessen side effects for these patients, as well as to collect preliminary data on any immunologic changes.

“Many funding agencies want research that cures cancer—they are less focused on improving quality of life and decreasing side effects of chemotherapy,” Judson says. “Many of the individuals associated with the Shaver fund have personally experienced chemotherapy and understand how hard it can be on their quality of life.”

Giovanatto-Shaver says she’s impressed that University researchers are delving into research that others aren’t. “It’s not that we’re trying to find the ‘magic bullet,’” she says. “We’re trying to help improve therapeutic methods and delivery and—through them—quality of care.”

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