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Rose Festival to support Knight Cancer Challenge this year

The Portland Rose Festival will give a portion of the funds it raises this year to the Knight Cancer Challenge that aims to raise $1 billion for cancer research at the Oregon Health & Sciences University.

That was just one example of the growing support for the drive discussed by OHSU officials during the monthly Portland Business Alliance breakfast forum Wednesday.

The festival has agreed to give some of the money generated through registration in the Bank of the West Grand Floral Walk, The Rose Festival Runners Rock 'n' Roll Portland Half Marathon Team and a special visit by Mascots for a Cure to the challenge. Other contributions received to date include a $1.4 million donation from Hoffman Construction and $200 million in bonds approved by the 2014 Oregon Legislature for construction of two new buildings for the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute in South Waterfront.

Altogether, OHSU has raised $286 million in donations to match the $500 million pledge made by Nike co-founder Phil Knight. OHSU must match the pledge by 2016 to receive it.

Institute Director Brian Druker, M.D., told the crowd at the Sentinel Hotel — formerly called the Governor Hotel — in downtown Portland that $1 billion will allow OSHU to become the national leader in cancer research with the goal of curing cancer through early detection, beginning with the most common and lethal forms of cancer.

"Our goal is to make the biggest impact against cancer in the shortest possible time that we possibly can," said Druker, who created the breakthrough drug Gleevec that targets cancer cells without killing healthy ones.

According to Druker, approximately 75 percent of donations are currently coming from within the state and 25 percent from outside the state, including internationally. He predicts that will change to a 60/40 mix once OHSU launches a national fundraising drive within a few months.

Other donations discussed at the forum included a pledge by Northwest Natural for a special math during its annual fall employee fundraising drive this year.

Druker says a successful drive will led to the creation of arround 1,000 good-paying jobs in Portland, not counting the construction jobs.

Mayor Charlie Hales said that would help achieve Portland's vision for the growing South Waterfront neighborhoodd along the west bank of the Willamette River. He said city leaders originally envisioned it as a residential and employment center anchored by the expansion of OHSU's campus, which is now concentrated on Marquam Hill.

Hales said the Great Recession had slowed OHSU's expansion, which is now proceeding with the construction of its second building, the OHSU/OSU Collaborative Life Sciences Building along the coming Portland to Milwaukie Light Rail Line.

"We didn't get that wrong, we were just early," Hales said.

For a previous story on Dr. Drucker and the Knight Cancer Challenger, visit portlandtribune.com/pt/9-news/212937-70067-the-billion-dollar-man