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A network to help patients live strong

Lance Armstrong Foundation's $1.7 million grant supports Center's cancer survivorship programs

April 6, 2006
Dr. Debra Friedman reading Livestrong materials

Dr. Debra Friedman is director of the Center's LIVESTRONG survivorship program. Housed at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, the program will help cancer patients transition to a normal life.

Photo by Dean Forbes

Advances in cancer detection and treatment in the last 30 years have translated into a tripling of cancer survivors in the United States. While many go on to lead long and productive lives, some are also left with health risks and lingering effects such as memory problems, limited mobility and infertility — underscoring the need for support and education to help patients make the transition to a normal life.

With a goal of improving outcomes and developing new models of care for cancer survivors, the Lance Armstrong Foundation (LAF) has pledged $1.7 million to the Center. The funds will support progressive, comprehensive survivorship programs, including clinical care, education and access to research. Under the grant, the Center becomes a member of the LIVESTRONG™ Survivorship Center of Excellence Network.

The LAF grant enables the Center to integrate existing programs and develop new programs to better serve survivors of pediatric and adult malignancies from a large geographic area. Currently, the Center is the sole National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center to serve Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho.

"We expect that this generous grant will greatly enhance our capacity to serve patients throughout the Northwest," said Dr. Debra Friedman, an associate member in the Clinical Research Division and affiliate investigator in Public Health Sciences, who will serve as director of the survivorship program. "We are very excited about the possibilities this grant represents, as well as the huge potential benefits to the increasing numbers of cancer survivors."

Integrating, expanding services

The four existing initiatives to be united under the grant include the SCCA's stem-cell transplant Long-Term Follow-Up Program, directed by Dr. Paul Martin, with Dr. Jean Sanders in charge of the pediatric patients; the ACCESS (After Cancer Care Ends Survivorship Starts) Program for childhood cancer survivors, directed by Friedman; the Prostate Cancer Clinical Research Program, under the leadership of Dr. Tia Higano; and the Women's Wellness Center, co-directed by Drs. Julie Gralow and Benjamin Greer to promote the transition from illness to wellness for breast- and ovarian-cancer survivors. In addition, under Friedman's directorship, a new program is being developed for general medical-oncology survivors treated with conventional therapy. Dr. Karen Syrjala, head of the Biobehavioral Sciences group in the Clinical Research Division, will serve as co-director for the newly integrated survivorship program, which will be housed at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance.

"We had these four programs serving cancer survivors of different populations. The LIVESTRONG Survivorship Center now draws them all together and allows us to expand services for adult survivors of pediatric malignancies and all general medical-oncology patients," Friedman said. "The Lance Armstrong Foundation was looking for the greatest diversity and range of ages served. What we already had in place is exactly what the foundation was looking to fund and expand upon."

While $1 million of the LAF grant will establish infrastructure for the program, the remaining $700,000 is earmarked for expansion in the form of three affiliates at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, Sacred Heart Children's Hospital/Providence Cancer Center in Spokane and Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage. Through these affiliates, the survivorship center will provide cancer-survivor care and develop survivor research studies for diverse populations, including those from inner-city, non-English speaking, and Alaska Native and Native American populations.

Long-distance application

The grant also enables the development and testing of models of care to reach cancer survivors unable to travel to the Seattle or affiliate locations. Test models include a dedicated telephone help line, an easy-to-navigate Web site, best-practice guidelines, and educational materials for survivors and their health-care professionals.

Other LIVESTRONG network members include UCLA's Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of Colorado Cancer Center, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center is a world leader in research to prevent, detect and treat cancer and other life-threatening diseases.