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Colorectal Cancer Survivors get to work to raise research money

July 27, 2018

Kim Kronenberger is not afraid to think big and inspire others to follow her lead. When Kronenberger was diagnosed with colon cancer at age 48, she and her family and friends were blindsided. More than two years later, she is cancer free and leads an effort in Denver to raise money for colorectal cancer research, and people in other cities across the country hope to have the same success.

After her cancer treatment at University of Colorado Cancer Center wrapped up, Kronenberger felt incredibly lucky to regain her health and her life. Then she was moved to action.

“I was feeling so much better,” she says. “I wanted to pay it forward and help the people who may get this disease after me.”

That is where the Colorectal Cancer Alliance comes in. Kronenberger knew the Alliance sponsored Undy RunWalks across the country to raise money for colorectal cancer research. She also was inspired by the Blue Hope Bash, the Alliance’s premiere fundraising event. Since 2010 the event has raised more than $6.5 million for colorectal cancer (CRC) research and screening and prevention efforts.

“I don’t like to run, but I like to dress up.” Says Kronenberger. “I asked Michael (Sapienza, chief executive officer at Colorectal Cancer Alliance) if I could bring the Blue Hope Bash to Denver.  He said yes and we got to work.”

Kronenberger, along with her husband Rusty Hogan and co-chairs Emily and Andrew Gregory, pulled together a committee to organize the event and raise as much money as possible for CRC research. The committee consists of Kathleen Clark, Stephen Estrada, Kathy Johnson, Don Hunt, Tara and Eric Lehnertz, Nancy Peterson, Jen Rottler. Chelsea Smith and Karen Wehling.

“The committee is an amazing group of people,” Says Kronenberger. “Each person is a CRC survivor. Some were even undergoing treatment when we took on this massive project.”

The inaugural Blue Hope Bash Denver raised close to $130,000, 80 percent of which will stay in Colorado, because of the committee’s hard work. Nearly $60,000 will be used for CRC research at University of Colorado Cancer Center. Because the event was so successful in the Mile High City, several other cities, including Indianapolis, Chicago and Boston, want to host their own Blue Hope Bash.

“The only way we will come up with better treatments for colorectal cancer is through research,” says Christopher Lieu, MD, CU Cancer Center’s deputy associate director for clinical research. “The money raised at the Blue Hope Bash will help us learn more about CRC and immunotherapy.”

Immunotherapy re-trains the body’s immune system to recognize cancer as a threat. Lieu says,. “In collaboration with immunologists at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus we have developed a humanized patient derived model (PDX), which allows us to mimic the human immune system. Preliminary studies with this model have shown anti-tumor activity in colorectal cancer that mimic what we see in patients treated with these agents in the clinic. This funding will allow us to begin testing immune-based treatment options in the laboratory that may be more effective for our patients.”

Lieu also has used funds from the Alliance to study colon cancer in people under the age of 40. More people in younger age groups are getting colon cancer and Lieu wants to know why this is happening and whether this kind of cancer is more aggressive.

The Alliance is committed to raising $10 million in five years for the innovative research necessary to improve treatments and quality of life for people with colorectal cancer.

Kronenberger and company are already planning next year’s Blue Hope Bash Denver. It will take place March 8, 2019 at Mile High Station.