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Thousands participate in the Revlon Run/Walk for Women

By Benjamin Parke
Daily Bruin
U. California-Los Angeles

(U-WIRE) LOS ANGELES -- Thousands gathered Saturday at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum to help in the fight against major afflictions which are prevalent among women.

More than $1 million was expected to be raised in the Revlon Run/Walk for Women, most of it to benefit a UCLA School of Medicine program that provides access to the latest treatments for breast and ovarian cancer.

"The sad truth of this is if men had breasts we would have been dealing with this long ago," said the event's host, Dustin Hoffman, whose long list of screen roles includes that of a female impersonator in the movie "Tootsie."

Also on hand to address the approximately 60,000 participants was Dennis Slamon, director of the Revlon/UCLA Women's Cancer Research Program. Describing how developments in targeted therapy were being made, Slamon likened the traditional approach in fighting cancer to "throwing a hand grenade," in which both good and bad cells were attacked.

"In theory, targeted therapy should be more effective and less toxic. In practice, that is what has happened," Slamon said.

The program started in 1990, and much of the money raised this year will be used to hire nurses and assign them to community physicians in locations such as Oxnard and Bakersfield. The network of physicians runs clinical trials of the latest cancer treatments, and those living in outlying areas will now have access to the new therapies.

"If there's a network doctor, they can get cutting-edge treatment right there in his office, instead of having to travel back and forth to UCLA," said Margery Walters of the network and project office for the Women's Cancer Research Program.

About 10 students from a UCLA class, Biology 30, "Biology of Cancer," were at the run/walk. Among them was Alex Lowry, a third-year biology student, who is a tutor for the class.

Alex said that her aunt, who was diagnosed with breast cancer six months ago, didn't know she was participating in the event.

"I'm taking some photos. I'm going to send them to her," Lowry said.

David Alfaro, a surgical technologist at the UCLA Medical Center's main operating room, was also at the event. Alfaro has worked in the operating room during mastectomies and reconstructions resulting from breast cancer, but the reality of the disease has come even closer than that.

"One of our nurses was diagnosed with breast cancer, but she's doing fine," said Alfaro, who received pledges from his coworkers for running the five kilometers around Exposition Park.

Many of the runners and walkers had tags on their backs stating that they were participating "in memory of" or "in support of" particular people, such as mothers, sisters, or friends. One tag indicated that the woman wearing it was running in support of "myself, so I can fight ovarian cancer and WIN."

"They call it the silent disease," said the owner of the tag, Sharon Soyka. She explained that the symptoms of ovarian cancer are often vague, and can appear to a doctor to be an entirely different disorder.

Soyka was diagnosed with the disease in March 1997, for what was originally thought to be a bowel problem. She added that some women think that a pap smear is a sufficient method of detection, but that only a pelvic ultrasound will detect ovarian cancer.

"Doctors will do everything before they order an ultrasound," Soyka said. "But women should demand it, because too often they go undiagnosed."

Some major star power turned out for the event, including Melanie Griffith, Cindy Crawford, Salma Hayek and Whoopi Goldberg.

"I'm here for several reasons," Goldberg told the crowd. "I have breasts, as do many of you ? whether they're the ones you started with, or ones you built on."

Goldberg urged women not to be afraid of getting the medical exams necessary to detect cancers at their earliest stages of development. Women, she said, must put aside any anxiety of being probed by a doctor.

"We've had stranger things inside of our bodies," Goldberg said.

(C) 2000 Daily Bruin via U-WIRE