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Research advocates have a unique and important contribution to make to cancer research, and are increasingly playing an important role in the cancer care setting. By participating in the development and oversight of research, advocates can truly influence the nature of cancer research and the future of patient care.

At Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center (VICC), research advocates participate in the NCI’s Specialized Program of Research Excellence (SPORE), bringing the patient perspective to the table, and helping scientists make the translation of cancer research to cancer patients efficient and effective. Research advocates may be cancer survivors, family members/caregivers, health professionals or community advocates who have an interest in cancer research and are willing to work directly with researchers in a specific SPORE program.

Since 2003, research advocates have been an integral part of the GI SPORE team, offering patient experiences and perspectives into GI SPORE research at VICC. Four committed cancer survivors and caregivers are actively involved helping to bring the best science to those who are affected by colorectal cancer by contributing in the following ways:

  • Serve on GI SPORE Institutional Advisory Board;
  • Attend SPORE research conferences and seminars;
  • Attend monthly Project meetings;
  • Review and provide input on research development and design, clinical trials and informed consents;
  • Develop patient-oriented resources and tools for SPORE clinical trials;
  • Raise awareness about cancer research and clinical trials through presentations to patient and community groups;
  • Serve as advisory members on other Vanderbilt committees and initiatives;
  • Facilitate collaborations with local, regional, and national organizations dedicated to colorectal cancer;
  • Participate in on-going advocate continuing education sessions.

For more information about research advocacy opportunities contact:

    • Stephanie Elliott, MPH
      Program Manager
      691 Preston Research Building
      Nashville, TN, 37232

Advocate Profiles:

Diane Lancaster
Soon after her husband’s diagnosis of colon cancer in 2002, Diane became interested in cancer research and clinical trials. Inspired by her husband’s hope that his involvement in clinical research might help others in the future, Diane became involved in the research advocacy program at VICC. Since his death in 2003, Diane has continued to be active in the Vanderbilt GI Cancer SPORE advocacy activities, including attending quarterly advocate meetings, SPORE project meetings, ESAB meetings and seminars. Diane has attended numerous research advocacy trainings through the Colorectal Cancer Coalition, has participated in political advocacy at the state and national level to support colon cancer research and volunteers for the Colon Cancer Alliance at local events. In 2004, Diane received an award of appreciation at the GI/Pancreas InterSPORE conference.

Ron Obenauf
As a 13-year metastatic colorectal cancer survivor, Ron is passionate about colon cancer research and educating the public on the importance of prevention and early detection. His research advocacy experience began in 2006 when he became an active member of the GI SPORE research advocacy program. Ron has been a speaker at the GI SPORE External Advisory Board Meeting, the Research Advocacy Network presentation at VICC, the Primary Care Update: CRC Screening and Prevention conference, and was featured in an Ayers Institute story by the Ivanhoe Medical News Service. He has served as a member of the Internal Advisory Committee of the Vanderbilt University Tumor Microenvironment Network (VUTMEN), and been active with the Tennessee Cancer Coalition through colorectal cancer initiatives. He is currently a member of the VICC Expressive Arts Committee which helps patients cope with the emotional side of cancer through the arts.

Wade Hayes
A two-time cancer survivor of stage 4 colorectal cancer and a patient of GI SPORE Principal Investigator Jordan Berlin, M.D., Wade is committed to giving back in any way possible as he is convinced he would not be alive if not for the cancer treatment he received at VICC. The Nashville singer/songwriter found inspiration through his cancer journey and the advice to “go life your life” given to him by Dr. Berlin when he was declared cancer free after 3 years. That advice turned into a song and the title track of his newest album entitled Go Live Your Life. Earlier this year, he organized a sold-out concert benefitting GI research at VICC and plans to make it an ongoing event. Wade helps to spread awareness and hope by sharing his story and was the the keynote speaker at the 2013 VICC Annual Survivor Celebration and has spoken at several medical conferences around the nation including the 2014 REV Forum in Washington, DC.

Wally Wilson
Wally Wilson is a musician, producer, publisher and songwriter based in Nashville, TN. Wally began his career as a musician during the “heyday” of honkytonks in Texas. Wally moved to Nashville from Dallas in 1980 with nothing more than his pickup truck and a hunger for the music business. He began his Nashville career as a janitor at Tree Publishing, country music’s largest publisher. He worked his way up at Tree, becoming a staff songwriter and writing hits for dozens of stars in the country and pop world. Wally began producing records. His first effort with Joan Baez received a Grammy nomination. He then developed and produced Lonestar, which went on to sell millions of records in their 10 years with BMG Records. Wally began working as an executive at MCA/Universal Music Publishing, heading their production division. He has served on the board of governors of NARAS and other music industry foundations. Wally went on to start Skyline Music Publishing and Skyville Records. Skyline Music Publishing has developed a 3,000 song catalogue, including hits from The Band Perry, Rascal Flatts, Sara Evans, and Reba McEntire. Wally then decided to get into the artist development business, and as a way to spread the word about his new acts he came up with the concept that he called Skyville Live. Wally has been touched by cancer repeatedly with many of his friends and colleagues, including Wade Hayes, afflicted by or dying from cancer. Most recently, a close family member was diagnosed and treated at VICC for colorectal cancer.