Many families have been affected by cancer in some way. But in the late 1990s, 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 IV Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
The Shavers had been raising money for cancer research through a golf tournament for years before this. But after their own experiences with the disease, they began to focus their funding efforts locally.
“The community at large supported Randy through his cancer,” says the Randy Shaver Cancer Research and Community Fund’s executive director, Giovanatto-Shaver, “and we felt it was very, very important to give back to our community.”
And that they have. Masonic Cancer Center investigators alone have received more than $1 million cumulatively from the Randy Shaver Cancer Research and Community Fund.
Arkadiusz Dudek, M.D., Ph.D., is one of the researchers who has benefited from the group’s support. For the last two years, he has received funding for a novel project aimed at developing a drug that targets a different protein for melanoma patients whose tumors build resistance to standard therapies. The funding has been critical as Dudek and his colleagues develop the science behind this idea, he says, as the lack of existing data would make it “impossible” to get funding from other agencies.
“The idea is that we will develop evidence that will become convincing enough to receive larger funding in the future,” he says.
A few years ago, the Shaver fund supported another project of Dudek’s focused on developing a vaccine to treat malignant melanoma.
“Those funds helped tremendously in starting and performing the Phase II clinical trial,” Dudek says.
Today he and his team are working to refine and develop a third-generation version of the vaccine therapy, he adds.
“A seed that was planted by the Randy Shaver Cancer Research and Community Fund is now growing beyond Minnesota to provide care for patients with melanoma,” Dudek says. “I’m grateful, and my patients who participate in studies are very much appreciative.”
Giovanatto-Shaver likes to keep in touch with the investigators, she says, not only to see how their research is going but also to let them know that their work matters—to her and to so many others around the world.
“I wondered when Randy had cancer what good would come of it,” she says. “I think this is a good answer to my question. I get to support these wonderful researchers, and it’s a privilege.”