The Examiner

Local Swim Across America Chapter Celebrates Anniversary, New Study

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The Swim Across America-Long Island Sound chapter is not only celebrating its 30th anniversary this summer but the findings of a clinical trial published last month that showed a treatment being 100 percent effective in 12 colorectal cancer patients.

You can understand why Tony Sibio might be a bit more excited about the eight fundraising events that Swim Across America is going to be holding throughout Westchester during the next month.

Sibio, the executive director of the Long Island Sound chapter of the nonprofit organization dedicated to raising money for cancer research and treatment, helped establish the local chapter 30 years ago this summer. That first swim at Larchmont Yacht Club featured 17 participants who raised $15,000, each completing a four-mile trek.

But it was the news published in The New England Journal of Medicine last month that really got Sibio’s attention – and, for that matter, innumerable cancer patients and their families. Results of a clinical trial of 12 colorectal cancer patients who underwent immunotherapy treatment with the medication dostarlimab revealed that every one of those patients’ cancer had a complete response with no evidence of tumor.

The trial was conducted at Memorial Sloan Kettering with early-stage grant funding from Swim Across America.

“A number of us have been involved for 30 years and it’s great to see our hard work bring some success, being able to hope, have hope, and it’s been why we’ve been doing this all of these years,” Sibio said.

Dr. Avni Desai, a gastrointestinal oncologist at Memorial Sloan Kettering and one of the investigators on the research team that conducted and authored the study, said the patients’ response exceeded all expectations. At the time of the study’s June 5 publication, the 12 patients had been tracked for six months and not only was there no evidence of cancer but none of them had received chemotherapy or undergone surgery.

While Desai acknowledged that the group was a small subset of people and a longer follow-up is needed, the findings have given researchers some confidence that help could be on the way. The next step is a Stage 3 trial and it is hoped that the treatment could be effective for people with other types of cancer that have the same type of protein deficiency.

“It was surprising to all of us that every single one of the patients on that trial had a complete response to the treatment,” Desai said. “We were expecting good results but not this.”

Sibio said the first of eight swims gets underway this Saturday morning at Westchester Country Club in Rye. They continue on July 14 at NYAC Travers Island in Pelham; Coveleigh Club in Rye on July 20; Orienta Beach Club in Mamaroneck on July 23; Scarsdale Golf Club on July 26; and on Aug. 6 at Lake Isle Country Club in Eastchester.

The most local swim is on Sunday, July 17 from 3 to 6 p.m. at Chappaqua Swim & Tennis Club.

Meanwhile, Sibio said the local chapter’s signature event, the Long Island Sound Open Water swim on Saturday, July 30, from 6 a.m. to noon, is expected to draw 500 swimmers to the Sound Shore in Larchmont. Swimmers can select the 2K, 5K or 10K events. Many of the teams will be swimming in honor of a cancer survivor or in memory of someone who has passed.

There will also be about 300 volunteers and kayakers making sure that all of the swimmers are safe in the water.

Sibio said it a stressful day for the organizers but a fun time for a great cause.

“It’s a huge event, a lot of support and it’s a way to fight back,” he said.

The general public is invited to participate in any of the swims with the exception of the July 20 at Coveleigh Club, which is for members only.

For more information about Swim Across America or for those interested in participating in this year’s swims, or to volunteer, kayak or be a sponsor, visit Donations can be sent to SAA-Long Island Sound, P.O. Box 217, Larchmont, N.Y. 10538.

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