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Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center's Inaugural Big Expedition for Cancer Research Begins in Alaska
Date:6/16/2008

Professional climbers embark upon first-ever climbing event of this

national cancer-awareness campaign

SEATTLE, June 16 /PRNewswire/ -- Members of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center's Big Expedition for Cancer Research left Saturday on a quest to scale an unclimbed, unnamed peak in Alaska's Glacier Bay National Park, part of a national awareness campaign for cancer research. The climb mirrors the quest to eliminate cancer -- the route is uncharted, there are inevitable unexpected setbacks and exhilarating advances, yet the goal remains paramount.

(Photo: http://www.newscom.com/cgi-bin/prnh/20080616/AQM157)+

The climbers left early Saturday morning by boat from Gustavus, Alaska, for Reid Inlet in Glacier Bay National Park. They are scheduled to arrive at the mountain in the next few days, where they'll set up base camp and prepare to leave for the summit when weather permits. The public can follow the progress of the climb at http://www.fhcrc.org/about/bigexpedition.

Professional mountaineers Matthew Farmer, 32, of Seattle; Dawn Glanc, 32, of Bellingham, Wash.; Kevin Mahoney, 39, of Madison, N.H.; and Bayard Russell Jr., 30, of Madison, N.H., will represent the Hutchinson Center on the Big Expedition for Cancer Research. Each was selected to participate in the expedition because of their passion, skill and experience in climbing.

"I joined the Big Expedition for Cancer Research because the idea of climbing as a metaphor for not just cancer research but for living life resonates within me," said Farmer, whose father was treated at the Hutchinson Center in 2002. "Be it in medical research, climbing, or our everyday lives, overcoming our fears and exploring the vast possibilities presented by the unknown is what makes us human, what makes us alive."

Mahoney got an aerial look at the peak in March when he, along with members of the Hutchinson Center support team, took a reconnaissance flight over the area to plan the primary route up the unnamed and unclimbed mountain. Because of its remote location, the 8,300 foot mountain has not been seen from the ground in more than 30 years, making planning for the expedition difficult.

Jim Wickwire, the first American to summit K2 and a member of the Big Expedition's Mountaineering Advisory Committee, was also on board for the flyover to finalize the mountain choice and route. A renowned mountaineer and Alaska climbing expert, Wickwire was instrumental in the planning process for this expedition.

"I first viewed the mountain in the late 1970s while climbing in the Fairweather Range," said Wickwire. "It's a classic peak, but one that offers no easy routes. No doubt, this will be a challenging climb."

Also serving on the Advisory Committee are Phil and Susan Ershler, the first couple to climb the world's "Seven Summits," the highest peaks on each of the seven continents; John Harlin, a noted climber and editor of American Alpine Journal; Eric Simonson, leader of the historic Mount Everest expedition that found the body of George Leigh Mallory; John Roskelley, a public servant, conservationist, author and revered American Himalayan climber; and Ed Viesturs, one of America's leading high-altitude mountaineers.

As the professional mountaineers on the Big Expedition undertake the journey to explore new heights in the mountains of Alaska, Hutchinson Center researchers continue toward their mission to eliminate cancer as a cause of human suffering and death. Last month, Hutchinson Center scientists David Maloney, Katie Peichel, Julian Simon and David Thomas -- all avid outdoor enthusiasts -- joined the professional climbers for a practice climb on Mount Rainier as they work together to raise awareness for cancer research.

"This is a truly new adventure for Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center," said Linda Gainer, vice president of External Affairs and Communications at the Hutchinson Center. "Through this expedition, we hope to show that seemingly insurmountable challenges are attainable and that they can lead to successes -- such as finding cures for cancer."

The expedition has strong support from the industry with 15 official suppliers that have donated equipment and gear. Satellite communications systems from Vizada will be used throughout the climb and the public will be able to follow the mountaineers' progress on the Big Expedition web site. It is hoped that those following the climb will gain an appreciation for the parallels with the groundbreaking research being conducted at the Hutchinson Center that will be noted on the site: http://www.fhcrc.org/about/bigexpedition.

BACKGROUND

About the Big Expedition for Cancer Research

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center launched the Big Expedition last fall to create public awareness around the monumental task of eliminating cancer. "The scaling of an unclimbed mountain is a good metaphor for cancer research because the challenges are unknown until you are in the middle of it and no one wants to turn back," said Nobel laureate Lee Hartwell, Ph.D., president and director of the Hutchinson Center. "Through the efforts of these professional mountaineers, we hope to build awareness for the critical need to support cancer research."

About the Big Expedition's Mountaineering Advisory Committee

This group of renowned mountaineers, expedition leaders and adventurers, consists of Phil and Susan Ershler, the first couple to climb the world's "Seven Summits," the highest peaks on each of the seven continents; John Harlin, a noted climber and editor of American Alpine Journal; Eric Simonson, leader of the historic Mount Everest expedition that found the body of George Leigh Mallory; John Roskelley, a public servant, conservationist, author and revered American Himalayan climber; Ed Viesturs, one of America's leading high-altitude mountaineers; and Jim Wickwire, a climbing legend and Alaska mountaineering expert who was the first American to climb K2, the second-highest mountain on Earth.

About Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

At Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, interdisciplinary teams of world-renowned scientists and humanitarians work together to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer, HIV/AIDS and other diseases. Our researchers, including three Nobel laureates, bring a relentless pursuit and passion for health, knowledge and hope to their work and to the world. For more information, please visit fhcrc.org.

CONTACTS

Dan McConnell (DDB Public Relations)

(206) 223-6466

dan.mcconnell@sea.ddb.com

Kit Herrod (Hutchinson Center)

(206) 667-5543

kherrod@fhcrc.org


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SOURCE Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center
Copyright©2008 PR Newswire.
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