UT scientist runs solo marathon to raise funds for cancer research

| Michaela Nesvarova

To raise money for cancer research at the UT, scientist Sonia García Blanco from the Optical Sciences group will be running a ‘solo marathon’ on the 18th of April. She aims to raise € 25.000 and ‘bring the early diagnosis of cancer a step towards reality’.

What gave you the idea to start a fundraising campaign?

García Blanco: ‘Last year my father in law passed away because of cancer. It was fast and really terrible. He went to the hospital because he was in pain and they never allowed him to leave, because by that time the cancer has spread throughout his body. He was in so much pain and he died a few weeks later. I kept thinking: this shouldn’t have happened. The cancer should have been detected years ago and all this suffering should have been prevented. With my research, I’m working on a device for early detection of cancer. The idea is to have a device that checks a variety of biomarkers and can detect cancer very early on. I wanted to do something to move this forward.’

Why run a solo marathon?

‘I wanted to do something to honour my father in law and other people in his situation. I planned to run a marathon already last year, but it was cancelled due to the pandemic. It was cancelled again this year, but this time I want to do something no matter what. So I decided to run a solo marathon around Enschede, all alone but with the support of my family. I like running, but at the same time I’m still a beginner. Running a marathon is very hard for me, it is something I need to work hard for. And that is why I connected it to the fundraiser. I didn’t just want to sit in my office and ask people for money. I need to do something extreme.’

How will you use the money that you raise this way?

‘That largely depends on how much we are able to raise, but the idea is to improve the optical sensors for the early detection of diseases that we are developing at the UT. The ultimate goal is to produce devices that can be used in every doctor’s office for easy and early detection of cancer. We have demonstrated that this works in the lab, but we are still many steps away from that end goal. With the fundraising money, we’d like to make a new generation of devices in the NanoLab and show their performance. If we acquire the full € 25.000, we can use it for fabrication and experiments with these devices. If we get less, we can at least start with the fabrication and hopefully acquire extra funding later on. This money is just one push, but it is a push that will eventually help us get there.’

What is the dream that you hope this initiative will help come true?

‘I want to see my research leave my lab. I want it to become a reality. I’d love to go to the doctor one day and get my test done. This is my very first fundraiser and it is so nice to see that people are connecting to the cause. I did it to engage people, to create awareness. It is very exciting. Even my kids donated their money because they thought this was such a cool thing to do. They wanted to give all their savings, because if someone did that earlier then grandpa wouldn’t have died, they said. I’m very motivated to do this. Unless I get injured or sick, I will run.’

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