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Def Leppard guitarist donates to cancer cause

An international rock star swept through San Diego on Thursday, but it wasn’t to perform in front of thousands of screaming fans.

Phil Collen, Def Leppard’s lead guitarist, presented a check for $20,000 to the Gerson Institute to treat cancer through holistic therapy.

“I thought working with Gerson would make an impact,” said Collen. “Otherwise, it's like giving money to the Titanic, where all this money goes into research and then disappears."

The money was generated from an online auction for a custom guitar he strummed on with during this summer’s “Rock of Ages” tour with Poison and Lita Ford.

The Jackson PC1 guitar was donated by its maker, Jake Willoughby. November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month, and Collen and Willoughby each lost a parent to the disease.

Bids opened on “eBay Giving Works” on Sept. 5 and closed Sept. 15, the day Def Leppard's three-month tour wrapped up in Santa Barbara.

The institute's founder Charlotte Gerson is still an active board member at the ripe age of 90.

"This is very exciting and moving,” she said of the donation. “We'll use it well. People are being helped and are being returned to productive lives."

"Gerson Therapy" is a natural treatment coined by Dr. Max Gerson in the 1920s to treat cancer and other degenerative diseases like diabetes, heart disease and arthritis.

The body’s ability to heal itself is activated through an organic, vegetarian diet, raw juices, coffee enemas and natural supplements.

"This donation was a great help not only financially but in raising awareness about pancreatic cancer and the existing alternative treatments," said Mikhaela Payden-Travers, the institute's development coordinator.

The Kensington-area institute, founded in 1977, sits at 3844 Adams Ave.

Def Leppard's origins also date back to that year, having sold more than 100 million albums worldwide since. The long-haired rockers' “Pour Some Sugar on Me” party anthem of the late 1980s remains one of their most iconic. (Collen later joined the group in 1982.)

On Thursday Collen crooned the crowd with that hit as well as several other songs, including "Hysteria" and "Muddy Water Blues," with guest vocalist Debbi Blackwell-Cook.

She collaborates with Collen for his other band, Manraze, which counts the Sex Pistols' drummer, Paul Cook, as a member.

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