A LETTER FROM EMERIL
I truly believe in the adage, ‘when life hands you lemons, make lemonade.’ As a chef, you might assume that’s a lesson I learned in the kitchen. But in fact, I learned it from my friend Robert Urich. He personified the positive, life-affirming attitude it takes to turn life’s most bitter lemons into sweet moments filled with laughter, creative energy, and the love of family and friends. He lived each day with grace, courage, and tremendous style, never taking an instant for granted.
You could say that the Robert Urich Memorial Golf Classic & Dinner Gala was envisioned by his friends and family as our way to keep ‘making lemonade’ for Robert. From the beginning, it’s been a fabulous event, and we’ve seen it grow in excitement and enthusiasm each year. I can’t think of a better way to pay tribute to my friend. On this weekend, we honor his spirited life by sharing in his favorite passions – terrific golf, superb food and wine, and the energy that comes from time spent in the company of good friends.
Perhaps more than any of those reasons, in gathering each year we have the great good fortune of making a real difference in the fight against cancer – the driving passion of Robert’s final brave days. The money raised for The Robert Urich Fund for Sarcoma Research fuels innovative research in pursuit of a cure. That’s the legacy Robert valued most.
This is the second year that Heather Urich has asked me to Co-Chair the weekend’s festivities. It’s quite an honor, and I look forward to it with anticipation. Now, it’s always tough to improve on a great recipe, but I gave it some thought and then it came to me…BAM! Why not take some of the magic we stir up in the kitchen out onto the golf course? So I’ve invited a few of my chef pals – from several of the country’s hottest restaurants– to prepare some of their specialties to be served at tasting stations at select holes right there on the links. Who’ll be there? You’ll have to play to find out. We’re calling it “Chefs on the Course for the Cure” and it promises to add a whole lot of spice to your game!
That ought to whet your appetite for the Dinner Gala on Sunday, when I’ll join Chef at the magnificent Sherwood Country Club as a guest chef. You won’t want to miss what we’ll be creating for the evening – I can’t wait to pay tribute to Robert in my own special way – kickin’it up one notch more with an unforgettable meal to cap off an extraordinary weekend of golf and camaraderie.
Won’t you to join me in honoring Robert Urich’s memory as a partner in the 2003 Robert Urich Memorial Golf Classic and Dinner Gala. You’ll be welcomed by friends old and new, and your generosity will make a difference in the lives of countless people facing a diagnosis of cancer. Plus, I personally guarantee you won’t go away hungry!
Emeril J. Lagasse
Dear Community and Corporate Leaders:
I am not a celebrity. Nor, if the truth be told, am I much of a golfer. I am a doctor, working side-by-side with hundreds of other doctors, nurses, scientists and patient advocates thousands of miles from Thousand Oaks, California, in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Together, at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center, our mission is simple, but not easy: to defeat cancer.
All of us at Michigan were deeply saddened by the loss of Robert Urich, who as both a patient and a supporter of our Cancer Center shared our passion and championed our mission. It is rare to see an individual match the challenges of cancer with equal measures of poise and courage. Robert was such a man.
We are honored that Heather and Robert established The Robert Urich Fund for Sarcoma Research to benefit programs at the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center. This endowment funds innovative research, novel patient care initiatives and a highly competitive training program for tomorrow’s clinicians. Through this fund, Robert’s memory lives on in discoveries about sarcoma’s cause, treatment and cure – findings that are already underway thanks to his foresight and generosity.
Again, I am neither a celebrity nor a golfer. But I have seen firsthand how both of these gifts can be powerful weapons in the arsenal to fight cancer. Robert used his celebrity even in a time of great personal difficulty to advance public awareness and scientific understanding of sarcoma. Now, by joining us at Sherwood Country Club as a Corporate Sponsor of the Robert Urich Memorial Golf Classic, you too can make an impact. Your partnership will provide vital support for cancer patients and their families, as well as help to advance crucial research efforts.
Defeating cancer is our shared goal. Inspired by the example of Robert Urich, and fueled by stellar events like the Robert Urich Memorial Golf Classic & Dinner Gala, we move toward it swiftly. With your help we will reach the finish line even sooner.
Thank you for considering our request.
Max S. Wicha M.D.
Distinguished Professor of Oncology
Director, University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center
Dear Ally in the fight against cancer:
I have chosen to devote my entire career to the study and treatment of sarcoma. The reasons behind that choice are the same ones I would give you to urge your involvement in The Robert Urich Fund for Sarcoma Research at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center. They are reasons that stir both heart and mind.
Sarcoma is unique among cancers. It strikes people of all ages, but is especially virulent in attacking the young. Sarcoma is the most common solid tumor found in young adults. If you share my belief that nothing in life is crueler than the prospect of losing a child, this fact alone should provide ample motivation for getting involved and staying involved.
But sarcoma also provides an amazing platform for learning about all types of cancer. Much of what we know about the molecular and genetic makeup of cancer came from carefully analyzing sarcoma patients. The study of sarcomas has also impacted how other cancers are treated. For example, sarcoma clinicians pioneered limb- and organ-sparing surgical procedures. Such methods now enhance the quality of life for patients suffering from breast and other common cancers.
With continued support from The Robert Urich Fund, what might be our next forward step? One possibility is advancing the art and science of chemotherapy. When I began my practice, chemotherapy was the new frontier. Before chemotherapy, I could offer little or no hope to a young patient stricken with osteosarcoma – a rare bone cancer. With the advent of chemotherapy drugs, one-half of osteosarcoma patients could be cured. Although a major advance, that percentage has remained virtually unchanged to this day. To make further progress, the urgent question remains: why are some cancer cells resistant to chemotherapy?
At the University of Michigan, we are among the first to examine an enzyme in cancer cells that metabolizes chemotherapy drugs. This same enzyme is present in healthy cells too, protecting them from poisonous substances. When found in great amounts in metastasized tumors, we theorize that this is the cancer’s effort to ward off chemotherapy in order to continue to grow. Further research will not only test this theory, but help us learn whether we can manipulate the cell to reduce this enzyme. This would allow the chemotherapy to be more effective, perhaps in lower, less harsh doses.
This is only one example of sarcoma research underway at the U-M Cancer Center, but it illustrates how, in the three decades I have been battling this disease, we have both made stunning progress and discovered how very much further we need to travel. Our pace will be quickened by your generous support of The Urich Fund.
I hope you will partner with us in this vital effort. Thank you.
Laurence Baker, D.O.
Associate Director and Director for Clinical Research
University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center
The Robert Urich Fund for Sarcoma Research
Like so many great achievements, The Robert Urich Fund for Sarcoma Research began not with fanfare, but with a personal commitment and a passion to make a difference.
Robert and Heather Urich established the fund in 1999 by donating funds received from a speaking engagement to the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center. The Urich Fund has since become an endowed fund at the Cancer Center thanks to the family’s dedication, the success of the first Robert Urich Golf Classic and the outpouring of individual and community tributes after Robert’s tragic death in April, 2002. Funds raised in Robert’s memory continue to be deposited into this protected account, where the interest earned will continue to advance sarcoma research and patient care initiatives into perpetuity.
The Urich Fund supports the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Sarcoma, or Connective Tissue, Oncology Program, which treats an entire family of cancers striking both adults and children. “Sarcoma” is a term used to describe cancers that arise in muscle, fat, blood vessels, deep skin tissues, nerves, bones and cartilage. There are two broad types of sarcoma: bone sarcoma and soft tissue sarcoma. It is estimated that in 2003, 2,400 new cases of bone sarcoma, and 8,300 new cases of soft tissue sarcoma will be diagnosed in the United States.
Attacking this devastating disease requires vigilance and creativity; answers may be found in unexpected places. One of the hallmarks of resourceful, innovative research is the ability to see a development in one area and apply it in another, very different area. With support from The Urich Fund, researchers at the U-M Cancer Center are currently undertaking two such studies:
now-familiar arthritis-fighting drug Celebrex® (Celecoxib) has
recently gained the attention of cancer researchers for its ability to inhibit
tumor vessel formation. Scientists studying a certain type of colon cancer have
utilized high doses of Celeberex® to prevent colon polyps from
becoming cancerous. Sarcoma researchers at the U-M believe this discovery may
hold promise in battling Synovial sarcoma, the soft tissue sarcoma that claimed
the life of Robert Urich.
· U-M scientists studying Ewing’s sarcoma (a cancer of the bone marrow, most frequently striking young people) have learned from an advancement in the treatment of another childhood cancer, neuroblastoma (a tumor arising in the nervous system). These researchers have developed a new drug called MIG-B that attaches a radiolabel to a unique substance of the neuroblastoma tumor to destroy it. Ewing’s sarcoma bears some similarities to neuroblastoma, and, following MIG-B as a model, our sarcoma investigators are working in partnership with scientists from The Johns Hopkins University to develop a similar drug for testing.
Thanks to the foresight and generosity of Robert and Heather Urich, tomorrow’s cancer sufferers will continue to benefit from the fruit of the research that this endowment is designated to support.