Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
news

MLB News

MLB, Stand Up to Cancer fund life-saving work

MLB.com @alysonfooter

WASHINGTON -- Karen Taphorn is among the millions of television viewers who watches the Stand Up To Cancer moment every year during the All-Star Game. She's also part of a slightly smaller population of fans who experiences the impact of that moment on a deeper, much more personal level.

Cancer nearly took Taphorn's life several years ago. Stand Up To Cancer saved it, through clinical trials largely funded by Major League Baseball.

WASHINGTON -- Karen Taphorn is among the millions of television viewers who watches the Stand Up To Cancer moment every year during the All-Star Game. She's also part of a slightly smaller population of fans who experiences the impact of that moment on a deeper, much more personal level.

Cancer nearly took Taphorn's life several years ago. Stand Up To Cancer saved it, through clinical trials largely funded by Major League Baseball.

"The work and the trust and the investment that organizations like MLB take on -- when they join hands with an organization like Stand Up To Cancer, I'm living proof of what two huge organizations [can do] that can save lives of people with cancer," Taphorn said.

For the past decade, all on-field action in the middle of two of MLB's most-watched events -- the All-Star Game, and Game 4 of the World Series -- stops for several moments, allowing the baseball world to pivot its attention to a brief, but powerful, event.

Players and personnel from both teams stand shoulder to shoulder, in front of the dugouts, and hold placards bearing the name of someone in their lives who is currently impacted, or has been impacted in the past, by cancer. Thousands of fans in the stands do the same thing, and the entire moment is captured live on the FOX television broadcast.

Video: WS2017 Gm4: Fans at World Series Stand Up To Cancer

This year, Stand Up To Cancer is celebrating its 10th anniversary, and its decade-long partnership with MLB. The in-game moment, which took place in the fifth inning Tuesday, was baseball's way to officially mark the anniversary.

Taphorn, a realtor and native of Highland Mills, N.Y., watches it every year, and each time, she's overcome. The brief event, she's reminded each time, is largely why she's still here today.

Taphorn's journey began six years ago, when she discovered a little mole on the small of her back. It was soon diagnosed as malignant melanoma, and required surgery to remove it. Twelve months later, it came back. She continued to have the cancer cut out of her, and this time, doctors also removed lymph nodes in her leg.

She was told the chances of recurrence were 70 percent, and that there isn't much to do, besides "wait and see."

"I don't know what you do with that information," Taphorn said. "You say, 'OK,' and you try to be normal."

This was all happening in July of 2013, right around the same time the All-Star Game was played at Citi Field in New York. Taphorn's friend, William O'Keeffe, attended the game, and he wrote Taphorn's name on the placard -- "I stand up for Karen." He took a picture of it and sent it to her.

"I was so completely overwhelmed with emotion," she said. "Not only because of what statement it makes, but it was my name. It was me out there."

It would eventually lead her to receiving life-saving treatment.

Five months after that All-Star Game, doctors discovered the cancer -- in the form of 24 tumors -- had spread to Taphorn's lungs. While being treated at Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, one of her doctors suggested a clinical trial.

"I jumped at it," Taphorn said. "I didn't know what to do. He felt completely sure on this. I went with him."

Within three months of the clinical trial, she began to show a significant response in the shrinking of the tumors. In 14 months, they were gone.

The trial, which involved immunotherapy and drugs that at the time were not FDA-approved, was completely funded by Stand Up To Cancer.

"No exaggeration, no embellishing," Taphorn said. "I'm alive because of that trial. And MLB helped fund that."

Today, Tephorn is labeled by her doctors as having had "complete response." The two drugs she was on during her treatment have since been FDA-approved. She's enjoying a healthy life, and not a day goes by that she does not think about the role Stand Up to Cancer had in her recovery.

"All of those ideas just start with a trial," Tephorn said. "They can't do that without the funding. You just see MLB, and how involved they are with this."

Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter.