IOWA CITY, Iowa -- In 2005, when Craig Mettille met college basketball announcing legend, Dick Vitale, he made a promise. A promise to do his part.
“I get emotional when I talk about it,” Mettille said, as he recalls the first time he heard Vitale talk about fighting cancer.
“Kids, children, they should not be in hospital beds they should be playing on the beach, they should be out running,” Mettille said. “I call it paying it forward.”
Before Mettille began, Vitale offered him some game-changing advice.
“You gotta be local. Local, local, local, that will be the first thing people ask you. Where the money is being sent locally,“ Mettille said.
As luck would have it, there would be a perfect fit for Craig just down the road, Miles Pufall. Pufall is a cancer researcher with the University of Iowa and he specializes in the structure of molecules to figure out how they work.
“I was trained as what is called a structural biochemist,” Pufall said.
Now that Craig found a team to play for, he made a simple agreement with Miles.
“You do the research and I’ll raise the money, how does that sound,” Mettille said.
Miles and his team received $200,000 to aid in their battle against child leukemia, money that was crucial in getting them onto the court.
“I think what we are doing is a real pioneering technique,” Pufall said. “What it allowed me to do was be a little more expansive and take a few more risks than your standard investigator would get to do.”
With Craig’s help on the fundraising side, Miles was able to head down the path of finding a cure.
“Because of that we were able to preserve on a few projects that we may have had to drop otherwise. I think we are really on the verve of a treatment for leukemia,” Pufall said.
Precursor B-cell lymphoblastic leukemia in children effects 4,600 each year in the United States, but that isn’t the only reason they decided to consider it their main rival.
“The second reason is a scientific one; it seems to be a good model for all kinds of leukemia and lymphomas to study them,” Pufall said.
The team’s research is working to take a stand against childhood leukemia but also serves in providing a platform to understanding all kinds of cancers, and the they feel they’re close to a finding a cure.
“Any breakthrough gives me goosebumps,” Mettille said.
Pufall said they are working with a drug company now and they are just months away from having a clinic trial available.
“This is like we are in the playoffs and we gotta be the one that wins,” Pufall said.
Since that first meeting with Vitale, Craig and his family have raised almost $750,000 for the V Foundation. He hopes to raise more funds this weekend when his holds the 5th Annual Golf and Gala Weekend at Riverside Casino.