Stillwater High School students recently donated more than $14,000 to benefit cancer research at the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation.
Their check presentation represented proceeds from the school’s “Pink Out Week” fundraiser. Since designating OMRF as the beneficiary of the annual event in 2011, Stillwater students have raised more than $128,000 for the foundation’s cancer research. Every dollar has gone directly to research.
Following each Pink Out Week, the event’s organizers tour OMRF labs. Eighteen students visited the foundation in January and interacted with OMRF scientists, including Executive Vice President & Chief Medical Officer Judith James, M.D., Ph.D., and Jake Kirkland, Ph.D., who explained his work involving a chemotherapy for breast cancer. Kirkland’s lab focuses on doxorubicin, nicknamed “red devil” for its distinctive color and toll on the body.
“Only half of the women who are put on doxorubicin benefit from it, but 100% get really, really sick,” Kirkland told the students. “My goal is to better predict which patients will get better from doxorubicin so the others can be spared from the side effects and maybe improve from another type of chemo.” (story continues below)
His message hit home for several Stillwater students, who lost beloved teacher and girls basketball coach Kendra Kilpatrick to breast cancer at age 36 in November 2022.
“The doctors tried that same chemo drug with Coach K, and she felt horrible, but if her condition improved at all, it wasn’t much,” said Stillwater senior Callie Campbell. “For that reason, I’m glad that the scientists here are trying to figure out why it works for some but not for others.”
The bake sales, silent auction, T-shirt sales and other events comprising Pink Out Week benefit OMRF studies like one that led to an experimental drug called OKN-007, which is undergoing clinical trials to treat patients with glioblastoma, an aggressive brain cancer. The drug has also shown promise in a fast-growing pediatric brain cancer called diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma (DIPG).
For Jordan Whitekiller, a senior, the tour confirmed the choice of OMRF as Pink Out Week beneficiary. “It’s very organized here,” she said. “I know exactly where the money’s going, and I know it’s being used well.”
Katherine Jackson, OMRF’s donor relations coordinator, called the annual visit by Stillwater students “one of our favorite events of the year.”
“These students put in so much effort toward Pink Out Week, and when they visit OMRF, it’s both a pleasure and a responsibility to show them specific research projects that benefit from their work,” Jackson said. “It also gives us a chance to make connections with young people who may someday intern with us or choose biomedical research as a career path.”