Cellucci Fund Boston Marathon team proud to support ALS research at UMMS

April 2018

pelletier boston marathon 2018

The 2018 UMass ALS Cellucci Fund Boston Marathon team surpassed its fundraising goal by 100 percent this year, garnering nearly $80,000 to support the breakthrough research underway at UMass Medical School toward a cure for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

Matthew Gibney, who ran the marathon in memory of his father, Robert Gibney, and uncle Alan Gibney, both of whom died of the disease, said he was humbled by the overwhelming support.

“My supporters are all aware of the great need to discover treatments and hopefully a cure for ALS, and they know that their donations are going toward this cause with UMass ALS Cellucci Fund,” Gibney said. “It gave me great pride during the marathon to wear the Cellucci Fund shirt and know that together we were making a difference.’’

Claire Pelletier (photo), who ran to support her father, T. J. Cole, who was diagnosed two years ago with primary lateral sclerosis (PLS), a nonfatal neurodegenerative disease similar to ALS, said the unyielding community support and outreach made her proud to run and hopeful for a cure.

“That hope sparks the road to victory for curing ALS,” she said.

Runner Sean McQuillan said he is also looking forward to the breakthroughs that come from the work in the labs at UMMS.

“I am humbled to have been a part of such a successful fundraising effort in honor of my Aunt Suz,” McQuillan said, of Susan Noll, who died in 2015 at age 55 from ALS. “I have never been prouder to be a McQuillan and can’t wait to see the great work that will continue to come out of UMass Medical School.”

The five members of the marathon team said the groundbreaking research at UMMS helped to keep them focused during a grueling race marked by heavy rains, wind and temperatures in the low 40s.

“The Cellucci Fund Boston Marathon team is a special group,” said John R. Hayes Jr., vice chancellor of advancement at UMMS. “Each member is dedicated—physically and mentally—to supporting our scientists in finding the next ALS discovery, and to raising awareness about the need for ALS research. We are very grateful for their enthusiasm and commitment.”

Former Massachusetts Gov. Paul Cellucci dedicated the final years of his life to working toward a cure for ALS, founding the UMass ALS Cellucci Fund in 2011 to support ALS research at UMMS. It is home to the lab of Robert H. Brown Jr., DPhil, MD, the Leo P. and Theresa M. LaChance Chair in Medical Research, chair and professor of neurology, one of the world’s leading ALS researchers and Gov. Cellucci’s physician. The governor died from the disease in 2013.

“It’s amazing to see how much progress has been made with the Cellucci Fund and the research since my dad, while he was suffering from this terrible disease, began this fund,” said Anne Cellucci Adams.

Through the support of the Cellucci Fund, Fen-Biao Gao, PhD, professor of neurology, was named the Governor Paul Cellucci Chair in Neuroscience Research at UMass Medical School.

“All of the money raised goes to high-risk high-reward ALS research. We really feel that at UMass Medical, with Dr. Brown and Dr. Gao, the cure, the treatment, for this disease is going to come out of this lab and these doctors,” Adams said.

Dr. Brown and Dr. Gao credit the Cellucci family’s support as key to some of the exciting ALS research underway at UMass Medical School.

“To see the interest, the passion of the next generation in how this disease evolves and how we can treat it is really a great motivator for all of us in the lab and we are grateful for this opportunity,” Dr. Brown said.