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Leaving a legacy

Zach Sobiech (Photo: J Dunn Photography)

The Zach Sobiech Osteosarcoma Fund lifts bone cancer research at the U ‘up, up, up’

Through music, Zach Sobiech said goodbye to his loved ones. And in the process, the Stillwater teenager’s YouTube music video for his song “Clouds” touched people around the world.

Though Sobiech died of osteosarcoma, an aggressive type of bone cancer, on May 20 at age 18, his legacy extends far past millions of YouTube views. The Zach Sobiech Osteosarcoma Fund, created by Zach and his family through Children’s Cancer Research Fund, exclusively benefits research at the Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota that’s focused on understanding the causes of osteosarcoma and developing new therapies for it.

Proceeds from the sales of Sobiech’s music, prints of his lyrics, and specially designed necklaces and key chains all benefit the Zach Sobiech Osteosarcoma Fund. To date, more than $568,000 has been raised—from 195,000 people around the world.

Osteosarcoma affects approximately 500 children in the United States per year, but doctors know very little about the cancer, says Brenda Weigel, M.D., codirector of the Masonic Cancer Center’s Sarcoma Program and director of the Department of Pediatrics’s Division of Hematology/Oncology. She also was Sobiech’s doctor at University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital.

University President Eric Kaler, Ph.D., applauds Zach Sobiech's family and friends at the Golden Gopher football game September 21 for supporting osteosarcoma research at the U. (Photo: Eric Miller/University of Minnesota)

“We know [almost] nothing about the causes or why certain people get it,”Weigel says. “If we did, we could come up with better treatments.”

University investigators from a variety of different areas, including veterinary science, chemistry, surgery, medicine, and pediatrics, are working together to understand the complexity of this disease.

Currently, University researchers are evaluating the human genome to identify genetic changes that may indicate a greater likelihood of developing osteosarcoma. They’ve also found that, at a molecular level, naturally occurring canine osteosarcomas are remarkably similar to those that occur in children, meaning that progress toward developing treatments for dogs who have osteosarcoma can speed the development of treatments for people with the same disease.

And they’ll only build on their successes with support from the Zach Sobiech Osteosarcoma Fund. “Zach’s legacy will live on in many, many ways,” says Weigel, “through his songs and his efforts to raise advocacy and awareness of osteosarcoma.”

To make a gift to the Zach Sobiech Osteosarcoma Fund or hear his music, visit www.childrenscancer.org/zach.

- Grace Birnstengel

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