‘Quest for a Cure’ event series kicks off with focus on sarcoma, ‘the forgotten cancer’  

Free events at University of Hawai‘i Cancer Center open to patients, caregivers, providers, public

University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa
Esme M. Infante, (808) 564-5911
Director of Communications, University of Hawaii Cancer Center
Posted: Jun 27, 2024

Every person who has been touched by cancer and/or serves cancer patients is invited to gain knowledge and inspiration at “Quest for a Cure,” the University of Hawai'i Cancer Center’s signature symposium series kicking off on Wednesday, July 10, at the UH Cancer Center in Kaka‘ako. Admission is free and the public is invited; the registration deadline is July 5.

“Quest for a Cure,” which is supported by the nonprofit Friends of the University of Hawai‘i Cancer Center, features presentations by patients, survivors, researchers, doctors and caregivers who generously share their knowledge, stories, struggles and triumphs with attendees, reaching out with empathy and compassion. 

The first symposium, on July 10, is themed, “Raising Awareness of Sarcoma … the Forgotten Cancer." Sarcoma, a type of cancer that starts in the connective tissues, such as muscle, fat or bone, is a disease often overlooked because it’s comparatively rare, said Brenda Hernandez, PhD, a UH Cancer Center researcher. However, early detection and prompt diagnosis is crucial: In Hawaiʻi, each year approximately 192 residents are diagnosed with sarcoma, comprising 2% of all adult cancers and 14% of all pediatric cancers diagnosed statewide. 

The July 10 event is timed to coincide with the July observance of Sarcoma Awareness Month. It is the first time that Quest for a Cure has focused on this type of cancer. The moderator will be Shane Morita, MD, MBA, PhD, FACS, head of surgical oncology at the UH Cancer Center and medical director of surgical oncology at The Queen’s Medical Center, who will discuss the local impact of sarcoma, treatment options and more. “Our goal is to build a statewide sarcoma alliance — a community of patients, survivors, caregivers, providers, researchers and other advocates, all actively engaged to raise awareness,” Morita said.

Other speakers include: 

  • Dr. Sean Kelly, MD, UH Cancer Center assistant researcher, and orthopedic oncologist at Tripler Army Medical Center; 
  • Dr. Evan Wu, MD, PhD, UH Cancer Center assistant researcher, and medical oncologist at Hawaiʻi Pacific Health; and
  • Brenda Hernandez, PhD, MPH, UH Cancer Center researcher.  

Sarcoma survivors Brynner Kekua and Caroline Huff, and caregiver Wendy Suite will share their personal experiences.

“While the UH Cancer Center may have been perceived in the past as dedicated almost exclusively to groundbreaking cancer research; moving forward, we want to show how we are also empowering patients in Hawaii’s unique and diverse community, providing knowledge and support for their cancer journey,” said Dr.  Naoto T. Ueno, MD, PhD, director of the University of Hawai‘i Cancer Center, a two-time cancer survivor who has faced sarcoma himself. “We want our community to know that the UH Cancer Center is active in the fight to save lives and support cancer patients in Hawai‘i and the Pacific.”

Cancer affects lives profoundly. In Hawai‘i, approximately 66,779 individuals are living with this disease. It is a transformative journey, not only for the patient, but for their friends and family as well. Even though each cancer journey is different, sharing stories and experiences helps to create connections and support.

"Finding out I had cancer changed my life," said Brynner Kekua, a Nanakuli resident and sarcoma survivor who will speak at “Quest for a Cure.” Kekua had symptoms for 15 years, but the cause was not pinpointed until a CT scan in 2022 finally confirmed sarcoma. Kekua had surgery in 2023, and his journey was tough at times, but aided by his doctors, his family and spiritual faith, he recovered. Now, almost a year after surgery, he says he feels close to his pre-cancer self. But cancer has changed his outlook on life, bringing him closer to the people around him and motivating him to make healthier choices. "We seem to push ourselves to find out what we can do," Kekua said. He also emphasized the importance of faith and supportive relationships in his recovery and daily life, saying, "A support system is mandatory in my life." 

Registration for “Quest for a Cure” is free and open until July 5. Secure your spot by registering in-person or online.

“Quest for a Cure” events are being planned also on Saturday, August 24, and Thursday, September 18. Details will be posted on the UH Cancer Center website and social media.

For more details about the Quest for a Cure series, please visit our website, contact us by phone (808) 564-5835 or email events@cc.hawaii.edu.

For more information, visit: http://https://www.uhcancercenter.org/quest