UC San Diego News Center


21st Annual Luau and Legends of Surfing Invitational Set to Fight Cancer Aug. 17

Local tradition will honor renowned cancer researcher Napoleone Ferrara, MD


Surf legends and community members team up for a friendly competition at the Luau and Legends of Surfing Invitational

Surf legends from around the world will join local scientists, businesses and community members in the fight against cancer at the 21st annual Luau and Legends of Surfing Invitational on Sunday, Aug. 17. The beachside fundraiser includes a surfing competition, traditional Polynesian dancing, music, auctions and a tropical buffet. All proceeds will support research and patient care at the University of California, San Diego Moores Cancer Center.

“The Luau and Legends of Surfing Invitational is an incredible demonstration of community support for our mission,” said Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla. “With the investment of philanthropic support, UC San Diego scientists and physicians are transforming how we care for patients in our region and across the nation.”


The Luau features performances by traditional Polynesian dancers, auctions and a tropical buffet.

This year’s event will honor Napoleone Ferrara, MD, in recognition of his research leading to new therapies for cancer. Ferrara, who currently serves as senior deputy director for basic science at UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center, is credited with helping to decipher how tumors grow. His work helped to develop the first clinically available drug to inhibit tumor growth, bevacizumab (Avastin), which is now part of standard treatment for a variety of cancers.

Ferrara has earned numerous awards for his research, including the Canada Gairdner Prize (2014), the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences (2013), The Economists’ Innovation Award for bioscience (2012), the Dr. Paul Janssen Award for Biomedical Research (2011) and now, the Rell Sunn “Queen of Makaha” Award, which will be presented during the Luau and Legends of Surfing Invitational. Established in memory of Rell Sunn, a Hawaiian surfer and longtime supporter of the fundraiser who lost her battle with breast cancer, the award is presented each year to an honoree who displays a strong will, unselfishness and compassion in the battle against cancer.

“Dr. Ferrara is an inspiration to everyone in the medical profession working to eliminate cancer and we are proud to honor him,” said Jay Leopold, regional manager of DPR Construction, which is chairing the event this year. DPR employees have been involved with the Luau since its inception in 1994, providing leadership and volunteers to help organize the event. “We’ve all at some point been impacted by family or friends who have had cancer. As a company, DPR wants to do everything we can to support UC San Diego and Moores Cancer Center and help find a cure.”

New this year, the surf competition has been expanded to include short boards as well as longboards, opening up the competition to more surfers and styles of riding the waves. Leopold added, “We are excited about assisting the founders in ensuring that this fundraiser continues for years to come, and making changes to that end, including drawing the next generation of legends into the event this year.”

Formerly known as the Luau and Longboard Invitational, the annual event has raised more than $6 million for research and patient care at Moores Cancer Center. Recognized for achievements in research, clinical care, education and community contributions, Moores Cancer Center is one of just 41 National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers in the nation, and the only one in the San Diego region. The center is also ranked among the top 25 in the nation for cancer services by U.S. News and World Report’s 2014-2015 “Best Hospitals” survey.

“Our researchers and clinicians are at the forefront of transforming cancer prevention, detection and care, and we have seen exciting progress toward making personalized cancer medicine a reality,” said Scott Lippman, MD, director of Moores Cancer Center. “We are grateful to have loyal support from community members and businesses to help us achieve our goals in the fight against cancer.”

The Luau and Legends of Surfing Invitational kicks off at 7 a.m. at the beach near Scripps Pier in La Jolla, where teams of four will be paired with a surf legend for a friendly competition. The luau follows at noon with music, traditional Polynesian dancers, a tropical buffet and live and silent auctions with one-of-a-kind surf memorabilia and vacation packages.

For the seventh year in a row, Pfizer, Inc. is the title sponsor of the fundraiser. The company will support its own team of surfing scientists at the event as well as the Thrivers Team, which is made up of surfers who have successfully fought cancer.

The surfing competition is free for viewing; a ticket to the luau fundraiser is $175. For more information about sponsorship opportunities, team entries, tickets and event activities, call (858) 534-4289 or visit the event website at More information on UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center can be found at

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