Dubai: The few minutes you spend pounding Dubai’s streets and the donation you make every time you take part in the Dubai Terry Fox Run has helped breed a new generation of cancer research scientists in the UAE who could potentially solve one of the biggest medical science puzzles there is: cancer.
“The funding from the Terry Fox Runs is training the cancer research scientists of tomorrow. This is part of the legacy of the Terry Fox Runs and part of the long-term benefits of its 18 years of helping fund cancer research here in the UAE,” Dr Frank Branicki, Chair of the Department of Surgery and Cancer Research Coordinator at UAE University (UAEU), told Gulf News.
The annual Dubai Terry Fox Run, which honours the memory of Terry Fox, a young Canadian cancer patient and cancer research advocate, has generated over Dh7 million for cancer research in the UAE since the first Dubai-based event took to the streets in 1994.
Last year, more than 5,000 participants joined the cause to raise Dh180,000 to help fund three cancer research projects of the UAE University and University of Sharjah. Four more research programmes are currently being undertaken, taking the total number of such projects through the years to 42.
Dr Branicki said that the UAE has earned a “reputation for cancer research” in the region, encouraging many young people to become full-time cancer research scientists, with the Terry Fox Runs helping in no small measure.
At a time when there was very limited funding for cancer research, the Terry Fox Run stepped in to help, and has consistently done so for the past 18 years. “It’s very important indeed because there was very little funding for cancer research around 18 years ago. But when the run started, many researchers in the UAE had some funds to depend on,” Dr Branicki said.
He stressed that funds from the run are still as important to cancer research today as it was then since available funds for research at the moment are channelled into other research areas and not on malignant diseases like cancer.
Among the UAEU’s recent important research contributions through funding from Terry Fox Runs is the groundbreaking study of Dr Basel Al Ramadi and his team who discovered the medicinal properties of the Manuka honey.
Dr Al Ramadi’s discovery presents strong scientific evidence that this variety of honey can effectively inhibit the growth of a variety of cancer cell types. It also helps in reducing the toxic side effects associated with chemotherapy.
To help fund future cancer research and continue Terry Fox’s legacy, volunteer organisers are already gearing up for the 19th Dubai Terry Fox Run on April 19 at its new home at Dubai Festival City.
“It’s a new location and we feel that it’s a long-term venue,” Ara Sahakian, chairperson of the organising committee, told Gulf News.
Over 8,000 residents are expected to participate in this year’s run, which features a 4.2 kilometre-route marked by lush greenery and overlooking a portion of the Dubai Creek. Participants have the option to run twice.
“It’s very very positive. People chase us asking when the next run is. They want to get involved for various reasons. One being they might have cancer themselves, they might be a survivor, or they have a family member who has cancer, or they just want to give back to the community,” Sahakian said.