National nonprofit Swim Across America is sending waves through the field of leukemia research right here in Charlotte. In September, more than 200 swimmers and staff from Levine Cancer Institute were joined by local athletes and Olympians at the second annual Charlotte Open Water Swim in Lake Norman. The signature event raised $150,000 – of which $115,000 will benefit Levine Cancer Institute’s leukemia research program.

Swim Across America (SAA) is dedicated to funding research for new cures and treatments for cancer by hosting swim events across the country. Founded in 1987 by cancer survivor Jeff Keith and childhood friend Matt Vossler, the first Swim Across America event was held in Nantucket, MA. SAA has since raised more than $75 million for cancer research with their trademark open water and pool swims. 

Swim Across America has made quite an impact locally, giving more than $200,000 for cancer research at Levine Cancer Institute since 2017. Earlier this month, Swim Across America presented a check to Levine Cancer Institute’s Leukemia Research team, including Ed Copelan, MD, Chair of the Dept. of Hematologic Oncology at LCI; Belinda R. Avalos, MD, VP of Hematologic Oncology & Blood Disorders and director, Hematologic Oncology Translational Laboratory; Lawrence Druhan, PhD, research group director of the LCI Hematology Oncology Translational Research Lab; and Michael Grunwald, MD, associate director of Levine Cancer Institute’s leukemia program.

Along with recognizing the important work of Levine Cancer Institute’s leukemia research team, Swim Across America President and CEO, Rob Butcher, also recognized a very special guest in attendance: Don Baker, a top fundraiser for the Charlotte Open Water Swim. Don participated this year in memory of his late wife, and in heartfelt support for the many patients and families impacted by leukemia in our community.

We are grateful to Swim Across America staff, donors and participants, for their outstanding support of Levine Cancer Institute through the Charlotte Open Water Swim. Special thanks to Barings for serving as a top corporate sponsor of the event. Learn more about Swim Across America at

Above (L-R): Dr. Larry Druhan, Levine Cancer Institute; Mary McCullagh, Swim Across America; Dr. Belinda Avalos, Levine Cancer Institute; and Dr. Michael Grunwald, Levine Cancer Institute.

Featured photo: Members of Swim Across America present a check for $115,000 to Levine Cancer Institute staff.

Leukemia Research at Levine Cancer Institute: Levine Cancer Institute is currently host to an array of ongoing clinical and translational research projects related to leukemia, such as multiple Phase 1 trials with novel agents. In 2019, the leukemia program plans to participate in multiple new trials, including a study that will bring CAR T cells to our clinic for acute lymphocytic leukemia patients. There is specific interest in improving outcomes for older patients with hematologic malignancies, especially AML. Researchers have been investigating gentler treatment approaches in older individuals with AML, including the use of frontline hypomethylating agent (HMA) treatment (as monotherapy and as part of combination therapy) as a bridge to allogeneic hematopoietic cell transplantation. The translational work in the Hematologic Oncology Translational (HOT) Lab is aimed at the identification and characterization of the leukemia stem cell (LSC) for the development of targeted therapies and for risk stratification. To learn more about leukemia care and research at Levine Cancer Institute, click here.