ABMDR’s First Cancer Awareness Symposium Received with Enthusiasm

Symposium speakers. From left: Dr. Robert Gellibolian, Dr. Ani Balmanoukian, Dr. Vergine Madelian, Ella Boghossian, Areg Boyamyan, and Dr. Armen Kassabian.
Symposium speakers. From left: Dr. Robert Gellibolian, Dr. Ani Balmanoukian, Dr. Vergine Madelian, Ella Boghossian, Areg Boyamyan, and Dr. Armen Kassabian.

Symposium speakers. From left: Dr. Robert Gellibolian, Dr. Ani Balmanoukian, Dr. Vergine Madelian, Ella Boghossian, Areg Boyamyan, and Dr. Armen Kassabian. (Photo: ABMDR)

LOS ANGELES—The inaugural Cancer Awareness Symposium of the Armenian Bone Marrow Donor Registry (ABMDR) was enthusiastically embraced by the Los Angeles Armenian community, as close to 100 attended the informative yet informal event. Featuring a distinguished roster of experts, the symposium took place on September 17, at the Kouyoumjian Hall of St. Gregory Armenian Catholic Church in Glendale, California.

Titled “Knowledge is Power,” the symposium focused on a number of common cancers, including colon, breast, and prostate cancer as well as leukemia and lymphoma. Speakers discussed cancer prevention, including nutrition and lifestyle changes; detection and diagnosis; and the very latest treatment options, including alternative treatments. The symposium also comprised presentations on stem cell transplantation, support groups, and genetic testing, as well as survivor stories.

The Symposium Committee.

The Symposium Committee (Photo: ABMDR)

The Cancer Awareness Symposium was made possible by the support of major sponsors Glendale Adventist Medical Center, Los Angeles Cancer Network, Reveal 23 (Foundation Laboratory), and the Armenian-American Medical Society.

In her opening remarks, Dr. Frieda Jordan, president of ABMDR, said, “Unfortunately cancer remains an often enigmatic illness that can ravage the lives of patients and families. But thanks to the medical breakthroughs of the past several decades and ongoing research, we have much reason to be hopeful. On behalf of the entire ABMDR family, I thank our speakers for bringing their wonderful expertise to this important community-benefit event, and I’m confident that when our symposium concludes this afternoon, you will leave here with a positive energy, having gained a fresh perspective on health and healing.”

“The theme of today’s event is ‘Knowledge is Power,’” said Symposium Chairperson Sona Ashjian in her welcome remarks. “That’s because our goal is to help raise awareness of cancer among our community, through a series of presentations delivered by highly knowledgeable and experienced medical professionals in the fields of commonly occurring cancers. Events like this are possible only through your support and interest, and we hope this will be the first of many symposiums to follow.”

Also addressing the audience was California State Senator Anthony Portantino, who said, “I’m a proud supporter of ABMDR. When it comes to cancer research, bone marrow transplantation, and saving lives, there is no such thing as a minor step forward. This reminds me of something Mother Theresa said. ‘When people tell me what you’re doing is just a drop in the ocean,’ she said, ‘I tell them: Isn’t the ocean better off for that drop?’ So everything you do to improve cancer awareness, educate patients and families, and provide them with support is extremely important.”

The symposium’s speakers were introduced by ABMDR Board member Dr. Christina Ashjian. The first speaker, Dr. Boris Bagdasarian, made a comprehensive presentation on colon cancer. Bagdasarian is a specialist in hematology, oncology, and internal medicine, and the chairman of Glendale Adventist Medical Center’s Cancer Committee. Dr. Nubar Boghossian, also a specialist in hematology, oncology, and internal medicine, spoke about various types of leukemia and lymphomas, with a thorough discussion of prevention, detection, and treatment strategies.

ABMDR Outreach and Education Officer Dr. Vergine Madelian discussed the role of ABMDR in stem cell transplantation. A Professor of Biology at California State University, Northridge, Madelian underscored the critical importance of expanding the ranks of ABMDR as a national registry, given the unique genetic makeup of Armenians and the fact that they have a vastly better chance of being matched with a stem cell donor if a large pool of ethnic Armenian donors is available. Madelian’s presentation was followed by a talk on cancer and well-being, delivered by Susanna Tamazyan, a registered nurse at Glendale Adventist Medical Center.

Cancer survivors Maneh Nazarian (left) and Ella Boghossian.

Cancer survivors Maneh Nazarian (left) and Ella Boghossian. (Photo: ABMDR)

Dr. Ani Balmanoukian, another specialist in hematology, oncology, and internal medicine, spoke about alternative cancer treatments, particularly the highly promising approach of immunotherapy, citing several successful outcomes from her own practice. Ella Boghossian, a breast-cancer survivor, shared her experiences in dealing with the disease and finding a path toward both physical and emotional healing. The symposium’s first portion was concluded with urologist Dr. Armen Kassabian’s in-depth presentation on prostate cancer, followed by a question-and-answer session.

After the lunch break, Dr. Robert Gellibolian, a biochemist and integrative-health consultant, spoke about the inextricable link between nutrition and cancer, and strategies for using nutrition as the first line of defense against the disease. Cynthia Klinger, a marriage and family therapist, concentrated on the important role of support groups in helping alleviate the emotional pain of being struck by cancer. Areg Boyamyan, senior vice president at Foundation Laboratory, discussed the cutting-edge technology of genetic testing, which indicates an individual’s predisposition to cancer and certain other illnesses. The symposium’s last speaker was plastic surgeon Dr. Peter Ashjian, who spoke about breast cancer and recent advances in surgical reconstruction.

The presentations were followed by one more question-and-answer session with the panel of speakers, as attendees posed questions on a broad range of topics.

“Promoting health awareness is part and parcel of the ABMDR mission,” Jordan said in her closing remarks. “Today’s symposium builds on our organization’s longstanding tradition of community outreach, one which will continue to serve our public with many more such events. Once again, I convey our profound gratitude to our panel of physicians and specialists, and I thank you all for your enthusiastic participation and support.”

About the Armenian Bone Marrow Donor Registry: Established in 1999, ABMDR, a nonprofit organization, helps Armenians and non-Armenians worldwide survive life-threatening blood-related illnesses by recruiting and matching donors to those requiring bone marrow stem cell transplants. To date, the registry has recruited over 28,000 donors in 42 countries across four continents, identified over 4,200 patients, and facilitated 27 bone marrow transplants. For more information, call (323) 663-3609 or visit abmdr.am.


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