Green-Theory Evan Anderson displays the "Cannagar" to be auctioned off at the fundraising event on Saturday

Former Miss Issaquah USA partners with businesses to fight breast cancer with marijuana

Pink is the well known color representing the fight against breast cancer.

Pink is the well known color representing the fight against breast cancer.

Several local businesses will be taking that hue and pairing it with a surprising one — green — this weekend at Cannagars for a Cause, a fundraising event for an Eastside foundation.

Green-Theory, a Bellevue marijuana retailer, and cannabis product producers Gold Leaf, Leira and Evergreen Herbal will be hosting the event at Green-Theory’s Downtown Bellevue location from 4 to 7 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 22 to raise money for The Pink Gene Foundation and the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Institute.

The Pink Gene Foundation was founded in 2012 by Eastside native and Green-Theory Director of Business Development Tera Martin after she developed stage 3 breast cancer at just 28 years old.

“I got my diagnosis right when I got into the medical marijuana field,” said Martin, now 31. “I used cannabis for treatment along with chemotherapy and my other treatments.”

Martin, former Miss Issaquah USA, Miss Greater Seattle USA and Miss Photogenic Washington USA, beat her cancer and wanted to make sure other young women could be more informed. Breast cancer is the most common form of cancer for women, and although it tends to show up later in life, resources for young women who find their lives turned upside down were not as easy to find.

“We are looking for high-risk genes called the BRCA 1 and 2,” Martin said. “We want to educate women and men on if they are good candidates for screening.”

The BRCA genes are present in every human, but certain mutations in some people can cause them to not release tumor suppressing proteins, thus making the recipients far more likely to develop breast cancer. In women with the mutated BRCA genes, the chances of developing breast cancer go from 12 percent in the general population to 65-45 percent, depending on the gene. Overian cancer rates become much higher as well.

The foundation raises funds for young women deemed “high risk” or who are currently battling breast cancer. It uses the funds for genetic testing and therapies or costs not covered by insurance. Some of the funding is used for educating women between the ages of 18-45 on screenings, testing and prevention, including thermography.

Thermography is a radiation-free screening that most insurances don’t cover. It can identify potential problem areas in the breast with little to no residual harm to the body, according to the Pink Gene Foundation’s website.

The event this weekend will be headlined by an auction event for a “cannagar,” or a cannabis cigar. The cigar, rolled by local business Leira, is filled with 12 grams of Gold Leaf’s Tangie strain, coated in three grams of rosin and wrapped in marijuana fan leaves. In essence, it’s the equivalent of 15 or so standard pre-rolled joints.

Bids for that cigar and sales of pink-lidded products from Refine, a limited edition edible item from Evergreen Herbal called the Cannabis Quencher (a bright pink bottle of sparkling strawberry lemonade with an ample THC content), along with donations from the public will be used largely for a project at Fred Hutchinson, which has piqued Martin’s interest.

Dr. Cyrus Ghajar has been working on a research project to identify compounds that target dormant tumor cells, which have disseminated elsewhere in the body. These cells are the seeds of metastatic recurrences in cancer patients.

“In reality what happens is that, before we can really ever hope to detect breast cancer, the cells manage to find their way out of the breast,” Ghajar said in a video speaking about the Pink Gene Screen, as it has come to be called. “You have a lot of women who get treated for breast cancer, are doing great for seven, 10, 15 years, and all of a sudden they get symptoms and go to the hospital and realize they have metastases.”

Ghajar’s work, with help from funding through the Pink Gene Foundation, could help pinpoint and maybe even prevent recurring breast cancer years after women and men have beaten it the first time.

In 2015, the Pink Gene Foundation raised more than $55,000. Martin, who works with several unpaid volunteers at the foundation, said the goal is to double that every year.

She said she knew there would be a certain stigma in trying to get a fundraiser going in a new, sometimes controversial industry.

“We have to work hard to make sure we’re compliant,” Martin said. “We think this is an awesome way to communicate with the city and maybe take some of that stigma off marijuana.”

Green-Theory is located at 10697 Main Street, Suite 2 in Downtown Bellevue.

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