Local Film Festival Partnering With Levine Children’s Hospital On Groundbreaking Cancer Research


Joedance Film Festival, the 12-year organization that has contributed more than $255,000 to the Atrium Health Levine Children’s Hospital, is now funding a Lab Technician to operate a very specialized piece of equipment, a CyTOF machine, which will speed up the process of studying effects of inflammation on cancer cells as it relates treatment outcomes.

For Joedance founder and president Diane Restaino, this is a big deal.

“One area of cancer research that has been gaining tremendous focus and traction in the past few decades is the role of the tumor microenvironment in cancer progression, and how the immune system is involved in this environment,” Restaino said. “CyTOF machine improves our ability to study the immune system in cancer, which could lead to better outcomes.”

Instead of thinking of cancer as a bunch of cells that have gone rogue, many scientists and doctors have started to view it more as an organ, with a bunch of different cells working together to provide a space for cancer cells to be able to freely and rapidly grow and metastasize.

In response to the immune systems’ role in cancer, immunotherapies have been an increasingly growing field for new therapies for cancers. So not only does the immune system play an important role in cancer pathology, but it also is an increasing target for therapeutics.

One main tool that scientists use to study the immune system’s role in cancer is a process called flow cytometry. This is a device that is used to sort cells based, most commonly, by tagging and separating cells using fluorescently tagged antibodies specific to cell antigens.

The CyTOF machine allows scientists to identify specific and unique immune cell populations present in the tumor microenvironment. The identification of these populations will increase our understanding of how the immune system provides support and protection for cancer to progress and metastasize, and additionally provide targets that can be isolated for the development of new therapies and treatments.

The 12th Annual Joedance Film Festival will be held August 5-7, 2021, once again with a virtual format as well as in person screenings. Film submissions for the 2021 Joedance Film Festival remain open until June 1, 2021. Joedance accepts films that have a connection to North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee.

Last year, Joedance made a strategic – and successful – pivot in wake of COVID-19 to present a virtual festival, showing 24 films August 6-8, 2020. In 2021 there will be a virtual component as well an in-person screenings.    

Joedance, which includes the annual film festival during the first full weekend in August and related events year-round, honors the memory of Joe Restaino by raising funds and awareness for pediatric cancer research at Atrium Health Levine Children’s. The family chose a film festival to honor Joe Restaino because of his love of movies. Joedance supports research and clinical trials for pediatric sarcomas, blastomas and brain tumors.

The organization rode a wave of expansion last year in its 11th year, including adding Georgia and Tennessee to the list of the Festival’s film eligibility list, and adding a student film category, which was showcased Saturday afternoon on Festival weekend.

To date, Joedance has donated more than $255,000 to Atrium Health Levine Children’s in 11 years, including $50,000 in 2020.

That $255,000 for Levine Children’s has done much, including:

*funding a Lab Technician to operate a very specialized piece of equipment, a CyTOF machine, which will speed up the process of studying effects of inflammation on cancer cells as it relates treatment outcomes.

*helping fund cancer research and clinical trials, including the Healios Project to prevent mouth sores in cancer patients.

*assisting in funding clinical trials for recurrent osteosarcoma.

*funding multiple cancer research internships, which have provided critical support to the hospital, such as collecting data on integrative medicine, with Joedance Film Festival named as the underwriter for the project.

Joedance Film Festival Submissions

Joedance Film Festival annually showcases short and feature-length films. Eligible filmmakers have to:

*reside in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia or Tennessee;

*be originally from North, Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia or Tennessee;


*be connected to North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia or Tennessee (films, cast or crew).

To donate to Joedance, visit www.joedance.org, or mail contributions directly to: Joedance Film Festival, 301 W. 10th Street, Unit 407, Charlotte, NC 28202.