Guardsmen, Firefighters Make 9/11 March in Support of Leukemia Patient

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Patient’s Colleagues Raise Awareness of Blood Cancers, Need for Blood Donations.

BUFFALO, NY — After their friend Mike was diagnosed with leukemia this spring, it didn’t take long for members of the U.S. Army National Guard and a local volunteer fire company to decide that they would help him in his battle against cancer. Today, they took steps — literally — to support Mike Anderson and other patients at Roswell Park Cancer Institute (RPCI).

This morning, nearly 300 members of the Grand Island Fire Company and three National Guard units based in Western New York marched on foot from the Masten Avenue Armory to RPCI, where more than 40 of them are donating blood today to benefit patients at RPCI.

The inspiration for this volunteer service? Mike Anderson, a specialist with the 2nd Squadron, 101st Cavalry of the New York Army National Guard and a member of the all-volunteer G.I. Fire Company. Mike, 25, was diagnosed this spring with acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL), a fast-developing blood cancer that affects about 5,300 U.S. adults each year.

As Mike’s family and friends learned quickly following his diagnosis with ALL in June, leukemia patients typically require transfusions of blood and/or platelets because their disease decreases the production of normal blood cells, and those levels are further decreased by the effects of chemotherapy.

So the guardsmen and volunteer firefighters who have served alongside Mike — during his tour of duty in Afghanistan or responding to emergencies in his hometown, Grand Island, NY — were eager to help him and patients like him by taking the time to donate blood at the Donor Center at Roswell Park and to help spread the word about the life-saving service community members can provide by donating blood or platelets.

Donald L. Trump, MD, FACP, President and CEO of RPCI, highlighted the need for donated blood among cancer patients, noting that September is Leukemia and Lymphoma Awareness Month.

“Blood transfusions are a key part of treatment for nearly every single leukemia patient — and often needed for patients with many other types of cancer as well,” said Dr. Trump. “Cancer chemotherapy suppresses the growth of both normal bone marrow cells as well as cancer cells such as leukemia cells. These effects on normal cells are temporary but often result in a severe deficiency of red blood cells and platelets. Blood products are so important for so many of our patients. I cannot thank the guardsmen and firefighters enough, on behalf of everyone at RPCI, for their efforts today — both in donating blood themselves and in raising awareness of the need for blood products among cancer patients.”

Today’s march holds a special significance for Mike’s colleagues from the 2nd 101. “Our unit served as first responders in and around Ground Zero, arriving there just two days after the 9/11 attacks,” says Mike Anderson’s commanding officer, Captain Matthew G.F. Ryan. “We have been to Iraq as a unit and we’ve been to Afghanistan as a unit. So it means a lot for us to be able to participate in something so proactive and life-affirming on the anniversary of those attacks.”

Joining the G.I. Fire Company and the members of the 2nd Squadron, 101st Cavalry were members of two other local National Guard units: the 427th Brigade Support Battalion, Company D, and the 105th Military Police Company.

For more information about blood donation at RPCI or about Mike Anderson, go to http://www.roswellpark.org/donorcenter or http://www.mikesbiggestbattle.com.

The mission of Roswell Park Cancer Institute (RPCI) is to understand, prevent and cure cancer. RPCI, founded in 1898, was one of the first cancer centers in the country to be named a National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center and remains the only facility with this designation in Upstate New York. The Institute is a member of the prestigious National Comprehensive Cancer Network, an alliance of the nation’s leading cancer centers; maintains affiliate sites; and is a partner in national and international collaborative programs. For more information, visit RPCI’s website at http://www.roswellpark.org, call 1-877-ASK-RPCI (1-877-275-7724) or email askrpci@roswellpark.org.

Editor’s note: RPCI may have photo and video footage of this event to share with media outlets. If you are interested in accessing these images and/or footage, please send an email request to annie.deck-miller@roswellpark.org or alicia.becker@roswellpark.org, noting your deadlines and format requirements.

Media Contact: 

Annie Deck-Miller, Senior Media Relations Manager
716-845-8593; annie.deck-miller@roswellpark.org