PANDA Fashion Show Breaks Fundraising Record; Grosses More Than $1 Million for Research at the UA Steele Children’s Research Center

May 18, 2015

For the first time in 16 years, the annual PANDA “Children Helping Children” Fashion Show and Luncheon gross revenues exceeded $1 million—all to support pediatric research efforts at the UA Steele Children’s Research Center.

The Phoenix Women’s Board of the UA Steele Center—known as PANDA (People Acting Now Discover Answers)—organize the annual event.

The luncheon and fashion show took place at The Phoenician Resort in Scottsdale on April 25, and was attended by nearly 1,000 people. Fifty-eight children  participated in the fashion show, modeling fashions from Splendid, Converse, Garage and Peek, to the theme, “When You Wish Upon a Star.” 

“This is an incredible and inspiring accomplishment, and we’re so grateful for the PANDAs and their passionate dedication to children’s health,” said UA Steele Center director, Fayez K. Ghishan, MD.

Proceeds from the event will fund pediatric cancer research through the “PANDA Children’s Anti-Tumor Program” at the UA Steele Center. The program is led by pediatric oncologist and Steele Center researcher Emmanuel Katsanis, MD, professor and chief of the pediatric hematology/oncology/BMT division in the UA Department of Pediatrics and Steele Center pediatric cancer researcher Nicolas Larmonier, PhD, associate professor, UA Department of Pediatrics.

“The traditional field of cancer treatment focuses on eliminating malignant cells,” said Dr. Larmonier.  “While chemotherapy directly kills cancer cells, there are also devastating side effects. In addition, drug-resistant tumor cell clones may emerge, which leads to relapse and sometimes death.”

“Now, our objective is to create an interface between traditional cancer chemotherapies and immune-based strategies, focusing on pediatric cancer patients,” said Dr. Katsanis. “We seek to identify a new generation of anti-cancer therapies with the ability to contain the cancer, develop natural immunity to the cells and reduce the emergence of tumor cell clones, and then translate the most promising of these approaches to treat children with cancer.”

“We hope to integrate multiple therapeutic approaches, to discover and apply novel cancer treatments to curtail the mortality and morbidity in pediatric cancer patients,” said Dr. Larmonier.          

In addition, monies raised during the “paddle raise” at the fashion show will be used to purchase two critical pieces of research equipment for pediatric cancer. PANDA proceeds also will help fund a “White Coat Fund” for researcher start-up costs and support an endowment to support PANDA projects in perpetuity.

This year’s event co-chairs were Kylie Cook, Melinda Gulick, Sandy Hobbs and Jennifer Karas.

“The event was nothing short of amazing,” said Karas, PANDA event chair.  “It was truly an inspirational and emotional day, and we were able to shine a bright light on the power of medical research and the critical need for safer cancer treatments for our children.”

Photos from the event can be viewed here:


The UA Steele Children’s Research Center is one of the prestigious Centers of Excellence within the UA College of Medicine – Tucson at the Arizona Health Sciences Center. It is the state’s only academic pediatric research center designated by the Arizona Board of Regents, and the only facility in Southern Arizona where researchers and physician-scientists are dedicated to advancing medical knowledge through basic and translational research to improve children’s health. As researchers, they seek to discover answers to children’s medical mysteries. As physician-scientists, they provide compassionate care to hospitalized patients at Diamond Children’s Medical Center and pediatric outpatient clinics throughout Tucson and the state. And, as faculty members with the UA Department of Pediatrics, they teach and train the next generation of pediatricians and researchers.