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Although the event featured many tragic stories of people who had lost their lives battling cancer, the feeling of the evening was both defiant and hopeful as researchers from the UCLA Cancer Center outlined a number of exciting new treatments being developed that they believe could add years to the lives of cancer patients.
“There’s hope. There’s always hope,” American Ninja Warrior host and cancer survivor Matt Iseman told The Hollywood Reporter. “No matter what your doctor tells you, no matter what the textbook says, there’s always hope. And the key to cancer, the key that I learned firsthand, is to never give up that hope, and to continue fighting.”
The evening had an Italian theme, and celeb guests such as Ty Burrell, Matt McGorry and Akbar Gbaja-Biamila enjoyed dishes prepared from six different restaurants, including house-made burrata from Locanda Del Lago and braised short rib on polenta from Tasting Thyme.
Gbaja-Biamila and Iseman presented the Gil Nickel Humanitarian Award to Paul Telegdy, president of the alternative and reality group at NBC Entertainment.
Gordon Ramsay hosted the event as only he could. He opened the night by telling the chatty audience to be quiet and then led an enthusiastic and expletive-laden cheer against cancer before explaining why support of organizations like the UCLA Cancer Center was so vital.
“The doctors at UCLA are some of the most brilliant in the world, and they continue to knock cancer to the ground,” Ramsay told the audience. “They have a vision on how to conquer cancer, which is a very smart and adaptive disease, and they need us to help bring their ideas to fruition.”
After dinner a spirited live auction was held, the highlight of which was an intense bidding war that involved what appeared to be a 12-year-old girl, who had to stand on her chair and wave her bid card high over her head to be seen. She eventually outlasted all challengers and took home a brand new Mini Cooper Convertible that she should be eligible to drive sometime after the next presidential election.
Before accepting his honor, Telegdy spoke to THR about why he was so committed to helping the doctors at UCLA find a cure for cancer. “This is really complicated science done by brilliant people who have devoted their lives to education and lifelong learning and research, and they do so for far less money than they could get if they went into traditional fields of medicine. They’re saints, and people like that need real help, and they need money and people who will tell their story.”
The evening concluded with a spirited mini set by Kelly Clarkson, who brought the audience to their feet when she sang her hit “Stronger,” which many cancer patients have taken on as a personal anthem of empowerment and strength.
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