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Blackjack movie pays off for cancer research

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Local,Karl B. Hille

Sometimes you get lucky. A chance meeting with several members of the now infamous MIT Blackjack Team at a Harvard party began Ben Mezrich?s Eureka moment as he struggled for a novel idea.

Mezrich scored big with a book ? and movie deal, and shared that success Thursday night through a benefit reception and screening for his father Dr. Reuben Mezrich?s cancer research programs at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

"Secretly I know he still wants me to go to med school. He?s introducing me to the dean for a reason," Ben Mezrich said before the screening at the Charles Theater.

The event raised a little over $25,000, said Mary Cain, director of Special Events for the School of Medicine. 90 people attended the VIP reception and another 140 people joined them for the screening.

The money will help advance imaging, diagnosis and treatment of many cancers, Dr. Mezrich said, resulting in more effective surgeries with easier recovery periods. "A lot of it is image-guided therapy. Instead of making a big hole in a person, you can image the cancer and go in with a small needle ? operating on the magnetic resonance table."

While Dr. Mezrich talks confidently about the effectiveness of image-guided treatments, getting these therapies approved takes a lot of time and research money. Fortunately Columbia Pictures agreed to the screening as a fund raiser.

Participants enjoyed "complimentary" blackjack and cocktails at the Metro Gallery before the movie, as well as a chance to meet Ben Mezrich and get a signed copy of the re-released book "Busting Vegas: The MIT Whiz Kid Who Brought the Casinos to Their Knees." A framed souvenir poster signed by the actors was raffled off before the screening.

"I think it?s a real interesting fund raising event," said Alan Weksberg, vice chair of radiology at the School of Medicine after amassing and blowing a small fortune in complimentary chips at one of several blackjack tables during the reception.

He also took advantage of the opportunity to get his signed copy of Mezrich?s book. "Any time you can hobnob with Hollywood, that?s really cool."

Ben Mezrich, who actually lives in Boston, has ten books, published, including "Bringing Down the House." This book spent fifty-nine weeks on the New York Times Best Seller List and sold more than 1.5 million copies.

He?s been named "Sexiest Author" by People Magazine and had a brief stint on Court TV with a series entitled High Stakes with Ben Mezrich, but he cautioned that the radiology program shouldn?t gamble on too many more movie deals for financing.

"It?s too much work," he said.

ON THE NET

Click here to read Examiner Movie Critic Sally Kline?s review of "21".

khille@baltimoreexaminer.com

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