For the third consecutive year, a Ponte Vedra family organized a fundraiser to support national brain cancer research led by the University of Florida Brain Tumor Immunotherapy Program (UFBTIP).
Held May 17-18, the third annual Jamie Chapin Classic was hosted by Deb and Sandy Chapin, whose son Jamie died from brain cancer, as well as their family, friends and the UF men’s lacrosse team, of which Jamie was a player and captain after graduating from Nease. The Jamie Chapin Classic relaunched when UF lacrosse coach Garrett Hanrahan decided to select a cause for the team and became aware of Jamie and his legacy. Jamie fought a battle with a particularly deadly type of brain cancer called a Glioblastoma/Astrocytoma.
The event kicked off this year May 17 with a Caribbean Moonlight Gala at a private residence in Ponte Vedra Beach. Guests enjoyed Caribbean music and cuisine, and the opportunity to hear from Dr. Duane Mitchell, who leads the UF Brain Tumor Immunotherapy Program. Mitchell discussed the ReMission Alliance, a collaboration of 12 top research centers in the United States and Canada under the direction of UF and charged with changing the trajectory of brain cancer.
Mitchell arrived at UF six years ago to start building its research program and expanding the brain tumor center. With support from the V Foundation for Cancer Research, which Deb Chapin’s father Jim Allegro helped to create, and in collaboration with the ReMission Alliance, Mitchell’s team has undertaken a groundbreaking approach to brain cancer.
Cancer cells, noted Mitchell, come from normal cells and send signals to the body that they are normal tissues under distress. As a result, the body’s response is to repair the tissues, turn its own mechanisms against itself and ultimately feed the cancer. Mitchell’s team is working to change the body and immune system’s response so that it rejects the growing mass, instead of it repairing it.
What’s been interesting and challenging, Mitchell said, is that two people with the same diagnosis have very different cancer diseases. As a result, his team has been charged with creating therapy programs that are very specific for each individual.
Mitchell shared the success story of one young girl who survived brain cancer thanks to this approach. Diagnosed with Medulloblastoma, she was treated with standard radiation and chemotherapy. One year later on her fourth birthday, the cancer returned. Mitchell’s team subsequently took a portion of her own tumor, exposed her immune system to the genetic material expressed inside her cancer, and hoped that her immune system would recognize the abnormal parts of the tumor and start to attack it. Mitchell shared that this young girl recently celebrated her 11th birthday tumor-free, marking seven years treated for relapsed cancer without any evidence of disease. This was the first time that Mitchell’s team had successfully treated a relapsed Medulloblastoma after its failed radiation.
“What you’re doing is making a huge difference,” Mitchell said to attendees of the fundraiser. “This really is the solution to curing this disease. I don’t mean University of Florida or us. But I mean working collaboratively to try to bring people together to tackle this in a much more efficient way.”
In addition to Mitchell, Deb Chapin spoke about her family’s fight with cancer, noting that her mother also died from the disease.
“Quite frankly, I’m kind of sick of it,” she said. “Cancer doesn’t care if you’re red or you’re blue, if you’re black or you’re white or what your gender is, it’s just a bully. It’s just gone on for too long.”
She also spoke about Jamie, saying that he was “full of humor and devoted to his family and friends” and “the kind of guy to go to when things went wrong.” Chapin additionally shared a letter written from Jamie to her shortly before his diagnosis that spoke to his positive nature, devotion to family and maturity.
Also at the Moonlight Gala, the Chapin Family presented awards to a few people in attendance. Dr. Mitchell received the Perseverance Prevails award for his efforts. Rick Sontag, who wasn’t in attendance, received an award for the millions of dollars he’s donated to his foundation supporting the fight against brain cancer. Jim Allegro also received an award for his efforts with the V Foundation, and Ponte Vedra junior lacrosse player Dylan Hess received the Jamie Chapin Award, which is presented annually to an area lacrosse player that exemplifies Jamie’s character and leadership on and off the field. UF coach Garrett Hanrahan also spoke at the end of the evening.
The following day on May 19, the UF lacrosse team and Jamie’s friends hosted the golf tournament at the Ponte Vedra Inn & Club Lagoon Course.
The Jamie Chapin Classic is appreciative of its sponsors and support. Donations can be made to UF Foundation by contacting Jessica Maier via email at Jmai0001@shands.ufl.edu or by phone at (352) 265-7237.