The University of Hawaiʻi Cancer Center held its 4th annual Quest for a Cure: Progress in Cancer Research event in October 2014. Sponsored by the Friends of the UH Cancer Center, Quest for a Cure is an opportunity to hear from the center’s leading experts on how research has improved the survival rate and quality of life for cancer patients. One of the featured speakers was a cancer survivor who participated in a clinical trial at the UH Cancer Center as a child.

“After a visit to my pediatrician and a few blood tests later, I was diagnosed with leukemia at the age of four,” said cancer survivor and UH Mānoa graduate student Mari Galiher. “I know if it were not for the University of Hawaiʻi Cancer Center, I would not be where I am today, especially with the ability to continue to pursue each of my dreams.”

After participating in the clinical trial, Galiher eventually went into remission.

woman at podium

Galiher speaking at the UH Cancer Center

“It was a nationwide clinical trial, so I would have had to choose to go to the mainland rather than stay here in the comfort of my own home,” said Galiher. “So I was very fortunate to do that.”

The UH Cancer Center is the only cancer center in Hawaiʻi and the Pacific to have a designation from the National Cancer Institute. Out of 1,500 cancer centers across the country, only 68 have this designation.

“The main reason we have cancer center here is to provide treatment options for people in Hawaiʻi so they don’t need to travel to mainland to have access to prevention and treatment for cancer,” said Michele Carbone, the UH Cancer Center director.

The National Cancer Institute designation also means more federal funding for research. The research at the UH Cancer Center covers a wide variety of fields including cancer biology—to determine why cells turn cancerous and spread; cancer epidemiology focusing on different gender, age and ethnic groups—very important in Hawaiʻi because of the state’s diverse population; and cancer prevention and control programs. It’s research that is having an impact on thousands of Hawaiʻi residents, like Galiher.

“Today I’m cancer free and I’ve been in remission for over 16 years now so this cancer center has been very near and dear to my heart and it’s a really great place,” said Galiher.