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The Blumberg brothers’ heartfelt initiative for lung cancer research

In a tribute to their beloved late aunt Debbie Grace, Ryan and Dylan Blumberg embarked on an admirable philanthropic mission. In September last year, they undertook the Sunshine Coast Ironman 70.3 event, not only to test themselves as first-time participants but also to champion a noble cause – raising vital funds for WEHI. Their connection to sports and their unwavering family bonds served as a driving force behind their heartfelt tribute.

Debbie was a remarkable individual, renowned for her vibrant personality. She was a cherished wife, mother and grandmother who, despite leading a healthy lifestyle, was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer in 2022. Debbie was an active sports enthusiast and an ardent traveller, determined to live life to the fullest with her loved ones. Tragically, she passed away at the age of 65 while skiing in Italy, in 2023.

Debbie and her husband, David Grace QC, had a history of supporting WEHI. Debbie held a deep admiration for WEHI’s research endeavours, diligently tracking advancements and achievements in medical research through its publications.

“We can’t speak highly enough about WEHI, and we are super excited to come and visit the lab and monitor how the research program progresses over the next few years.”
– Ryan Blumberg
Ryan Blumberg, left, and Dylan Blumberg, right, at the Sunshine Coast Ironman 70.3 event.
Above: Ryan Blumberg, left, and Dylan Blumberg, right, at the Sunshine Coast Ironman 70.3 event.

Debbie’s appreciation for WEHI’s research served as the catalyst for the Blumberg brothers to raise funds for Professor Kate Sutherland’s lung cancer laboratory. In close collaboration with Prof Sutherland and research officer Dr Rachel Joyce, they have ensured that all contributions made in Debbie’s honour will be dedicated to lung cancer research at WEHI.

The prevalence of lung cancer in Australia and worldwide is a pressing issue, affecting both smokers and non-smokers. About 1.8 million people die from lung cancer each year – one person every 20 seconds. While smoking is a leading risk factor, about one in five lung cancer patients have never smoked.

Research has shown that non-smoking women face a greater risk of developing lung cancer compared with non-smoking men.

“While we both have a limited understanding of lung cancer research; we were shocked to hear about the disproportionate increase in the incidence of lung cancer in non-smoking women compared to that seen in non-smoking men,” Ryan said.

“We are fully supportive of Kate, Rachel and the rest of the team to band together and hopefully uncover some meaningful discoveries in this space.”

The research conducted by Prof Sutherland’s lab aims to unravel the reasons behind these disparities, seeking to understand how male and female hormones influence the development of lung cancer while exploring new methods for its treatment and prevention.

This research has the potential to benefit all people afflicted by lung cancer, irrespective of their sex or hormonal status, enhancing the wellbeing of lung cancer patients, their families and the broader community.

Ways you can support WEHI

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Illuminate Summer 2023
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