December Hero of the Month: Undy 5000 5K Director Todd Setter

Exact Sciences: What is your personal connection to colorectal cancer? 

Todd Setter: I lost my father, who was my best friend, to colon cancer in 1998.  He was diagnosed as stage 4 and lived for a mere 232 days after his diagnosis.  After a few years of mourning him, I decided I wanted to honor his legacy by creating awareness of this disease which is treatable with early detection.

What are you doing to raise awareness of this disease?

A lot! Through both my professional career and personal life, I work to raise awareness on three different levels – locally, regionally and nationally.

It began in 2004 when I created the Santa Cause Pub Crawl. At that time, I was disappointed that the city I lived in had nothing to promote prevention and awareness. So I convinced a bunch of friends to dress up like Santa and Miss Claus to spread awareness locally on the streets of San Diego. It became an annual fundraiser that sold out for a number of years.

As of today, the event has raised nearly $60,000. What is special about this event is that it shows how fundraising for an important cause can be fun and easy to plan. We found that folks are much more willing to reach into their wallets and purses to give a donation when a hundred Santas walk by raising awareness about this disease.


Regionally, I sit on the board of the California Colorectal Cancer Coalition (C4), a nonprofit organization made up of a diverse group of dedicated individuals throughout California whose mission is to save lives and reduce suffering from colorectal cancer. As a part of this volunteer group, I have the opportunity to play an active role in advocacy, awareness and prevention throughout the entire state.

I made my way to the national scale when I got my start with the Colon Cancer Alliance (CCA) in 2010 by organizing the first Undy 5000 5K in San Diego. One of CCA’s largest programs, the Undy 5000 creates awareness throughout the country about the importance of getting screened. Today, this event is held in 20 cities across the country and not only drives awareness but also helps fund local screening, research and patient support programs in each event city.

Tell us a little bit more about the Undy 5000 5K Run. How did you become involved with the Undy 5000, and what does the experience mean to you?

The Undy 5000 5K run/walk is the Colon Cancer Alliance’s flagship fundraising event that uses a bit of humor to talk about a serious topic. Unique to this event, participants are encouraged to run in family-friendly underwear themed outfits to catch people’s attention and get them talking about this often “tabooed” subject.

The Undy 5000 provides a one-of-a-kind experience, allowing hundreds of people who have been affected by colon cancer to come together as a community. This event honors survivors in attendance and also takes a moment to remember lost loved ones.

As someone who has lost someone special to this disease, I am incredibly passionate about these events and work hard to translate that passion into a motivating experience for all those in attendance. Being able to be a part of an organization that helps keep others from experiencing the untimely loss of a family member as I did is so important to me and makes my job incredibly meaningful and fulfilling.


In your opinion, why is it important for people to be educated about the disease and the prevention methods?

Colon cancer is one of the most preventable types of cancer, yet it is the second leading cancer killer in the US. If everyone followed recommended screening guidelines, up to 90% of all cases could be avoided. Unfortunately though, people don’t like to talk about “that” part of the body and therefore are unaware of the importance of prevention. By openly discussing colon cancer and educating the public about this disease, colon cancer becomes a subject that people are comfortable talking about.

The more we educate about this disease, the more people will take an active approach to preventing it, and the more lives will be saved.

What are your thoughts on what Exact Sciences is trying to accomplish?

In my opinion, the best prevention test is the test that is actually taken. I believe in and appreciate Exact Science’s commitment to the fight against colorectal cancer.

Lastly, what is one thing that you would like people to take away from your story?

I would hope that people will be inspired to not only make sure they and their loved ones take proper prevention measures, but also that they reach out to help as little or as much as they can. Whether that’s through supporting and becoming involved with the Colon Cancer Alliance or simply by openly having conversations about this all-too-common, terrible disease. If we can get one more person screened, we have the potential to save one more life.

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Topics: Hero of the Month

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