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Competing for a cause

April 26, 2023

Duck and Dodge

As dodgeballs fly through the air and land on their targets with precision, the sound of the crowd cheering reminds us that this this isn’t the gym-class dodgeball you remember - this is way more fun.

At the fourth annual Duck & Dodge, competitors faced off in a dodgeball tournament in support of neurofibromatosis (NF1) research at Sinai Health's Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute (LTRI).

NF1 is a genetic disorder that can affect multiple systems of the body and cause a wide range of potentially debilitating and life-threatening symptoms. After their son Jonathan was diagnosed with NF1, Claire and Craig Rankine launched Duck & Dodge to accelerate life-saving research and give much-needed hope to patients and their families.

Since 2019, Duck & Dodge has raised nearly $400,000 and created The Rankine Family Fellowship in NF1 to advance research.

Fellows supported by The Rankine Family Fellowship in NF1 are contributing to groundbreaking discoveries, such as finding that NF1 contributes to drug resistance in cancer. They work with lead researchers Dr. Daniel Schramek, Dr. Rod Bremner and their team in the LTRI to advance genomics research by investigating how gene mutations drive diseases, and how to overcome drug resistance and save lives.

“It's been incredible to partner with the Sinai Health Foundation to fuel research in such a tangible way,” says Craig.

It’s the first time the tournament is back on the courts since pivoting to a virtual format during the pandemic. As multiple teams battle it out simultaneously, Jonathan is racing from game to game, trying to take in as much of the action as possible.

In young children, NF1 typically appears as flat café au lait-coloured patches on the skin, which is how Jonathan’s condition was first detected during a routine doctor’s visit when he was eight months old.

His parents are grateful that his symptoms have so far been mild and aware that many people with NF1 aren't so fortunate. The severity of the condition varies considerably from person to person and can include skeletal abnormalities, cognitive challenges and an increased risk of cancer. Because NF1 is relatively rare, however, the gene mutation that causes it is seldom studied.

Patients and their families are often left with a devastating fear of the unknown as they navigate a little-understood condition.

One of the only centres in the world studying NF1, the LTRI's work is not only vitally important but also unique. While other centres specialize in the treatment of NF1, the LTRI is at the forefront of discovery research that can finally reduce uncertainty and transform outcomes for patients.

The Rankines are full of gratitude for the groundswell of support for their family and the cause that is so dear to them. Soon, the latest Rankine Family Fellow will join the research team and begin contributing to the extraordinary progress underway.

Speaking of teams, the family is already looking ahead to next year’s Duck & Dodge, when the kids will finally be old enough to participate.

“Oh, they can’t wait to take the grown ups on,” laughs Claire. “Everyone had better start practicing!”

To learn more about Duck & Dodge visit the website.


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