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Stuart Scott

Meet two doctors continuing to fight cancer under Stuart Scott’s legacy

Donita Brady and Gianna Hammer are recipients of grants through the Stuart Scott Memorial Cancer Research Fund

Stuart Scott owned a passionate voice for improving outcomes for minorities with cancer.

Scott was so passionate in his beliefs that after his death in 2015, the V Foundation and family members representing him founded the Stuart Scott Memorial Cancer Research Fund. The fund allocates dollars to minority researchers fighting cancer in minority communities through the V Foundation.

Scott was a friend of the V Foundation and helped raise funds for the organization for 20-plus years, beginning long before 2007, when he was diagnosed with cancer. The V Foundation has awarded more than $8 million from the Stuart Scott Memorial Cancer Research Fund. Twenty-four grants have been awarded since the fund was started in 2015.

Meet two researchers who are part of Scott’s legacy.

Donita Brady and Gianna Hammer are recipients of grants through the Stuart Scott Memorial Cancer Research Fund.

Brady is presidential assistant professor of cancer biology at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine. She studies a lethal form of pancreatic cancer known as pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC).

PDAC usually has a five-year patient survival rate. This dismal statistic is caused in part by the inability to detect PDAC early enough for surgery and the nonresponse to chemotherapy treatment of its tumors. Brady focuses on targeting the body’s natural way to regenerate cells, called autophagy. Her PDAC research looks at a specific gene called KRAS.

Hammer is an assistant professor of immunology and assistant professor of molecular genetics and microbiology at Duke University and a member of the Duke Cancer Institute.

Hammer and her lab look at how cells of the immune system work in the intestinal tract to help fight diseases such as colorectal cancer, specifically dendritic cells, which are designed to kill all infections. According to Hammer, if dendritic cells say, “Jump,” the immune system asks, “How high?”

“When I talk about dendritic cells, I often call them ‘the head coach of the immune system,’ ” Hammer said. “This is actually a pretty good description of how these cells work to fight infection.”

Many recipients explore reasons that some cancers are more likely to occur, are more aggressive or are harder to treat in some minority populations, and some conduct clinical trial studies.

Scott participated in a clinical trial study.

“Our father got seven years after he was diagnosed with cancer, and that is seven years we may not have had,” his older daughter, Taelor Scott, told The Undefeated.

African-Americans often are diagnosed when cancer is more advanced, and death rates are higher. One way to help combat the problem is to recruit more people of color to participate in clinical trials. But overcoming historical stigma is a big deal for minority populations and is likely one of the most common factors driving the low participation numbers. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, African-Americans make up about 5 percent of clinical trial participants and Latino Americans constitute 1 percent. As a result, treatments become biased toward whites’ reactions to drugs.

Funded research projects include prostate, colorectal, breast, endometrial and lung cancers.

Visit www.jimmyv.org/stuartscott to make a donation in Scott’s memory.

Kelley Evans is a general editor at The Undefeated. She is a food passionista, helicopter mom and an unapologetic southerner who spends every night with the cast of The Young and the Restless by way of her couch.