When top OHL defenceman Erik Gudbranson’s younger brother was diagnosed with leukemia, he visited him at the hospital.

Watching nurses crowd around him, Gudbranson said he “understood the severity of the disease and of cancer in general.”

Now 18, the hockey player — who was ranked fourth overall among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting — is throwing his support behind one of the signature fundraising events for the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation.

The Alterna Do It For Dad run and family walk, which has raised $1.6 million for prostate cancer research, education and awareness projects in Ottawa, has expanded its mandate this year to include all men’s cancers.

“Another reason I come out here is my dad,” Gudbranson said. “He’s definitely a role model for me and I never want anything like this to happen to him.”

Forty-five per cent of men will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lives, said president and CEO of the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation Linda Eagen.

“One in seven will be affected by prostate cancer,” she added.

“Early detection could mean that we don’t lose more than 4,000 men every year in Canada from cancer,” said foundation supporter Max Keeping.

Funds from this event have gone towards a radioactive therapy program and funding research studies, said Dr. Gad Perry, head of oncology at the Ottawa Hospital Regional Cancer Centre.

Other treatments being developed include the cyberknife, which is “a very precise, robotic-controlled radiation delivery system,” and a robotic surgery system that’s being planned for Ottawa for treating prostate cancer, said Perry.

The foundation is also launching a new testicular cancer prevention and awareness program in local high schools this fall, Eagen said.

“Those are all things that are keeping Ottawa in the forefront in terms of research,” Perry said.

“All of these things couldn’t be done without the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation and events like Do It For Dad.”

The event is scheduled for June 20 at Anniversary Park at Carleton University.

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