Students at Arizona State University have raised nearly $5,000 for pancreatic cancer research at the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen).

Led by Lambda Chi Alpha, eight Greek social groups at ASU bought t-shirts, held a dunk tank and decorated their Greek letters during “Hunt for a Cure” events in November, which is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month.

Wednesday, members of the fraternity toured TGen to see how their fundraising dollars are being put to work.

The fundraising idea began with Race Carter and Braden Liu, two members of Lambda Chi Alpha. Carter and Liu hatched the idea while considering Liu’s fledgling t-shirt business, and the plight of another fraternity brother’s relative with pancreatic cancer.

“We started making all these connections. Purple is one of the colors of our fraternity. Purple is the color associated with pancreatic cancer. And the next month was Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month,” said Carter, 18, a Barrett Honors College freshman, majoring in Business.

“It was like it was supposed to happen,” said Carter, who felt that TGen, with one of the nation’s leading pancreatic cancer research units — TGen has led two Stand Up To Cancer Pancreatic Cancer Dream Team efforts — was the perfect organization to benefit from their philanthropy.
Carter and Liu took the idea to the leaders of Lambda Chi Alpha who jumped on board with the idea of holding a fundraising event. They enlisted the help of seven sororities, reached out to non-Greek students, and eventually sold nearly 600 t-shirts.

“Whoever is affected by pancreatic cancer is the real winner of this fundraising,” Carter said. “The researchers, the patients, everyone. It’s TGen that wins, and everyone that wins. And it’s not just the money. We need to get the message out there.”

Carter said he realizes that $5,000 may not make a huge difference in a research effort that costs tens of millions of dollars to pursue. But he and his fraternity brothers and students in the Greek system already have plans for similar events to benefit TGen in the future, and he is hoping the fundraisers snowball, building greater awareness about TGen across the ASU campus.

“We want to keep doing it every year!” he said.

Pancreatic cancer annually takes the lives of more than 40,000 Americans, making it the nation’s fourth leading cause of cancer-related death. Only 1 in 4 patients survive more than a year following diagnosis, and the 5-year survival rate is less than 10 percent for all patients. Pancreatic cancer can rapidly spread to distant organs, especially the liver and the lungs. Survival remains low, in part, because no early screening test exists.

TGen is working to develop early detection of pancreatic cancer and new treatments for patients.

“We heartily applaud the philanthropic leadership of the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity and the hundreds of young men and women at ASU who joined them in this fundraising effort,” said TGen Foundation President Michael Bassoff. “Race Carter, Braden Liu and all of their brothers at Lambda Chi Alpha have shown how a simple, but thoughtful, idea can grow into a movement, raising awareness and hope for the thousands of patients who need our help.”