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02/10/2017 10:06 AM

To Honor Melissa: 'Gala for a Cure' Feb. 25 in Branford

Family and friends of Melissa Marottoli Hogan, shown here gathered at the 2016 Gala for a Cure, invite the community to attend the Melissa Marottoli Hogan Foundation (MMHF) 2017 Gala for a Cure Sat. Feb. 25 at Woodwinds in Branford. Proceeds benefit late-stage cancer treatment research underway at Smilow Cancer Hospital.Photo courtesy MMHF

BRANFORD, CT [Edited]-  On Saturday, February 25, the shoreline community will gather in high spirits, with charity in mind, at the Melissa Marottoli Hogan Foundation's (MMHF) fifth annual Gala for a Cure, 7 p.m. at Woodwinds of Branford, 29 Schoolground Road.

The gala is presented by MMHF in partnership with the research lab at Smilow Cancer Hospital. MMHF contributes to advanced breakthroughs in late-stage cancer treatment.

Branford-based MMHF was founded by Marottoli Hogan's family to honor her life, which was taken by lung cancer in December, 2012 at age 31. Marottoli Hogan, a non-smoker, was first diagnosed with the disease at age 27.

In addition to gathering her family and friends, the gala's grown to attract elected state officials, town representatives, renowned doctors and many local business owners. More than 500 attendees support the annual gala. 

Funds raised specifically support an immunotherapy study at New Haven's Smilow Cancer Hospital. The study has proven to have promising outcomes in late stage cancers and has led to a cancer-free life for some patients.

MMHF works directly with Dr. Scott Gettingher, one of world's leading doctors in immunotherapy research, who conducts his research at Smilow. Immunotherapy has replaced toxic chemotherapies as first line therapy for patients with advanced cancers whose tumors express a particular marker.

"As immunotherapy research broadens, the MMHF's Gala for a Cure becomes more rewarding to execute," said Lindsay Marottoli Greenberg, MMHF President and her late sister's identical twin.

"I know my sister would be doing the same thing if she were here," said Marottoli Greenberg. "In a community-centric and fun way, do what you can to help cancer patients have a better quality of life, and/or beat this disease."

[Read more on the family's early efforts to establish the foundation in memory of Marottoli Hogan here, in the story "Making Miracles Happen" by Zip06/The Sound.]

This year's gala will feature a live and silent auction, four-course dinner, entertainment by Timmy Maia and The Heartbeat Band, and dancing. Past live auction items have included signed guitars from big-name artists, European or Caribbean getaways, and fine jewelry.

To date, all-volunteer, non-profit MMHF has raised more than $300,000 with 100% of the profits donated to immunotherapy.

"We have clearly entered a new era of cancer care, one which will increasingly rely on one's own immune system to attack, control and potentially cure advanced cancer," said Dr. Gettingher.

"Indeed, we have seen prolonged, ongoing responses in several patients, long after stopping immunotherapy. Advancements have moved relatively quickly, with the first lung cancer-specific trial evaluating these newer immunotherapies starting only seven years ago," he continued. "Some patients from the first trial still are without evidence of active disease, which is six to seven years after initiating immunotherapy [four to five years after completing immunotherapy without subsequent therapy].  This progress is profound. This progress is thanks in large part to the MMH Foundation, who has granted our research lab with funds directly allocated to tumor sequencing, research agents, and progress against lung cancer. "

Local families who have been affected by cancer within the New Haven County community have found hope and strength through MMHF's efforts. On February 25, MMHF invites the community to once again come together to support local research labs, and help make a lasting difference in cancer research.

Sponsors are needed to help Gala for a Cure. MMHF is also accepting donations for live and silent auctions and offers event volunteer opportunities.  For more information, visit or email

Tickets, $100 per person, can be purchased through the website or Eventbrite (click here )Tables of 10 are also available.

Founded by the family and friends of Melissa Marottoli Hogan, who lost her battle with lung cancer at 31 years of age, the Foundation was established to honor her life and seek to support ground-breaking lung cancer research, to promote lung cancer awareness, and to provide assistance to lung cancer afflicted families. The Foundation donates all net proceeds, has no paid staff, and enlists the help of sponsors and volunteers to promote the cause of finding a cure. The MMH Foundation achieved 501(c)(3) status in 2014.

Foundation namesake and inspiration Melissa Marottoli Hogan is shown here on her wedding day in 2012.File Photo