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Festival nets $45K to fight cancer

Standing in the lobby of Harrington’s Cancer Center with the mock check indicating the Festival of Giving Trees’ donation are, from left, Festival Chairman Sue Hapgood, Silent Spring Institute and Mass. Breast Cancer Coalition spokesman Cheryl Osimo, Harrington Auxiliary President Helen Santilli, Festival treasurer Janet Garon, Cancer Center Director Diane Becquart and Harrington CEO Edward Moore. The Cancer Center, SSI and MBCC each received $15,000. Gus Steeves. (click for larger version)
March 07, 2010
SOUTHBRIDGE — Last week's donation of money from Festival of Giving Trees to three anti-cancer organizations comes at a time when the national cancer community is in some ferment over a discovery and a lawsuit surrounding cancer-related DNA.

"We're thrilled with the end results" of last December's Festival, which raised around $60,000, said organizer Sue Hapgood of Sturbridge. The bulk of it — $45,000 — was officially shared Thursday, March 4 between the new Harrington Cancer Center, which treats the dread disease, and the Silent Spring Institute and Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition, which conduct research into environmental factors causing it and how to prevent it.

"Prevention efforts are always underfunded because the money goes to other pots," said SSI/MBCC spokesman Cheryl Osimo, a former Southbridgian. "... People are going to lose money because of prevention, so it's not popular in some circles."

She was primarily referring to money going into big drug companies to find new treatments for cancer and chemical firms, which produce some of the substances she strongly believes play a key role in cancer. Osimo's nonprofit groups have been finding a link between substances commonly found in homes and cancer. Such substances — termed endocrine disrupters — exist in a wide array of pesticides, flame retardants, cosmetics, plastics and other items, often in doses that are objectively small but have deleterious effects because they mimic natural hormones that control bodily development, particularly during gestation or in infancy.

Osimo said SSI and MBCC don't do any DNA research directly, but such chemicals often have an impact on DNA.

For more on this story, please see Monday's Southbridge Evening News.

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