DETROIT — Pink doesn’t clash with maize and blue — it’s more of a complement, really.

Virginia Lozano/Daily
Students lead the Michigan fight song during the Maize and Blue Go Pink fundraiser event
Virginia Lozano/Daily
Ashlee Baracy, Miss Michigan/ Miss America 2008, walks the runway during the fashion show at the Maize and Blue Go Pink fundraiser
Virginia Lozano/Daily
Motown singers The Original Vandellas perform at the Maize and Blue Go Pink fundraiser event.

At a “chic tailgate” in Detroit’s Cadillac Square on Friday, the University of Michigan Health System hosted the first-ever “Maize and Blue Go Pink” benefit for breast cancer research at the University’s Comprehensive Cancer Center.

The Comprehensive Cancer Center — founded in 1986 — uses new and innovative medical techniques in its cancer research and clinical practices. Ryan Davis, associate director of the Comprehensive Cancer Center, said rapid advancements in the center’s Breast Oncology Program convinced directors that a fundraiser would help support its growth.

Members of the alumni marching band and Detroit Pistons cheerleaders welcomed attendees as they moved into a “strolling dinner.” Davis said UMHS hopes “Maize and Blue Go Pink” will become an annual event.

Clad in maize, blue and pink, attendees watched a fashion show that featured items from the Somerset Collection in Troy, Mich. University affiliates who walked the runway included Athletic Director Dave Brandon, Regent Denise Ilitch (D–Bingham Farms) and University alum Steve Hutchinson, former offensive guard for the Michigan football team whose collegiate career was followed by a 12-year stint in the NFL.

Hutchinson and his wife were called in to be the master and mistress of ceremonies for the event. An auction-style fundraiser at the end of the night raised approximately $150,000 in support of breast cancer research.

One highlight was remarks from Flora Migyanka, a mother of two and a survivor of breast cancer who underwent extensive treatment at the University Hospital. With the example of Migyanka’s survival, physicians present at the event stressed the pervasiveness of the disease.

“You know what I think? I think this is unacceptable,” Ora Pescovitz, executive vice president for medical affairs and CEO of UMHS, said in her remarks about the disease that kills nearly 40,000 women a year.

Several attendees, including current medical students, said their support was in concern over a reduction in federal funding for research.

Sofia Merajver, scientific director of the Breast Oncology Program, said the reduction in government funding for medical research could be balanced out by the recent increase in community interest and philanthropic involvement. To put it into perspective, Merajver said $5,000 only funds about five days of intensive research in a typical laboratory.

The future of breast cancer research lies in understanding the genomic changes in the tumors of every person rather than complying with a one-size-fits-all model of treatment, Merajver explained.

“Cancer research is expensive, but at the same time the value that you get at a university is huge because we are doing research all the time, and the money goes directly for research,” Merajver noted. “It’s a very efficient way to discover, and our goal is to really discover new knowledge.”

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