One community stands against cancer

Published 6:00 am Monday, January 28, 2019

Dr. Rebecca Morris is on the front lines in the fight against cancer.

Section leader for the Stems of Cancer lab, her group searches for footholds in the battle against two types of cancer: skin and breast cancer.

To do this work, her lab, as well as The Hormel Institute in general, relies on several different avenues to turn down in order to take up that fight, two of which are the driven scientists in her lab as well as the grants that fund the research.

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So, maybe more than other scientists in bigger city settings, Dr. Morris sees how important Paint the Town Pink is.

“Paint the Town Pink is wonderful,” Dr. Morris said. “It’s made it possible for me to get into breast cancer.”

Dr. Rebecca Morris

Dr. Morris is the recipient of a seed grant, made possible through funds raised through PTTP. It’s the first year these seed grants have been handed out and through these funds, scientists can begin the work and the studies that lead to much bigger grants.

The beginning of a garden of work that will someday, as everybody hopes, lead to the end of cancer.

Dr. Morris and her lab are still waiting to see if they’ve been okayed for the grant, in this case from the National Institute of Health. The seed grant from PTTP doesn’t guarantee anything, but it does give the scientists a step up toward bringing in the larger grants in a competitive national field.

To even be able to apply for the grant at NIH, Dr. Morris first needed to prove that her study was viable, and that required a lot of extra steps.

“It’s been wonderful,” she said. “We had to learn all these new techniques for studying cells. There were a lot of new tools to learn and finally, at last, we applied for the grant. It was all these things together.”

And while the scientists remain hopeful they will get the grant, even if they don’t, they’ve made the strides simply by learning the new technique.

One community

PTTP, Paint the Rink Pink and The Hormel Institute are not seperate entities working toward the goal of curing cancer. Not in one way at least.

On first glance, they are, but really it’s more than that. They are one community working toward a singular goal.

It’s that closeness of connection that makes it possible. It’s the scientists and people of the community living in one small, close-knit city that drives the engine.

“One of the things that sets us apart from other research institutes is we’re not in a bigger city,” said Brenna Gerhart, development associate at the Institute. “We have more of a relationship with the community.”

The scientists, like Dr. Morris, see that as well. In fact, it’s easy for them to see both sides of the coin.

“That’s really wonderful to be able to see and follow the people who do the research,” Dr. Morris said. “And it helps us be thankful for the support Paint the Town Pink and the community gives us.”

That close connection helps drive the community toward making PTTP better and better each year, and it makes Dr. Morris hopeful for a future where just maybe, cancer is defeated.

“I think so,” Dr. Morris said when asked if she thought a corner might be turned. “Because so many people are working on that problem.”