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2019 Swedish Cancer Institute Impact Report

An update on your support of innovative and compassionate cancer care

You make the Swedish Cancer Institute (SCI) a place of hope and healing for patients from around the Pacific Northwest.

From leading-edge research and personalized treatments to nonmedical financial assistance for patients in need, you provide a wide range of support.

Below you’ll find just a few highlights of what you made possible last year—and how your gift will lead to healthy tomorrows for even more patients in the future.

Your giving offers a sense of connection

Dale Douglass could tell right away that something was wrong with her husband, Steve. “He just wasn’t himself,” she says now. After 25 years together, the Douglasses have learned each other’s rhythms. So when the normally gregarious Steve, a 72-year-old retired janitor for the Issaquah School District, withdrew and stopped joking around last January, Dale insisted that he go to the doctor.

A trip to Swedish Issaquah turned into a three-day stay, as doctors ran tests and ordered blood workups to figure out why Steve was so fatigued. Then he was transferred to Swedish First Hill, where oncologists finally had an explanation for his symptoms.

He had leukemia.

Dale did everything she could to stay strong for Steve, but as his medical bills started to come in, she started to break. The couple was already stretched thin, between renting land in a mobile home park and paying a monthly $280 electricity bill. Even finding enough cash to put food on the table was a challenge. Then she got a call from one of our social workers. “He said, ‘We’d like to help you buy some groceries and pay your electric bill,’” Dale says, her voice catching in her throat. “It absolutely meant the world to me and Steve. We’ve never had anybody help us before.”

Dale and Steve were able to access $500 in grants from the Patient Assistance Fund, which is solely made possible through generous donors like you. Every day, you empower our social workers to meet with patients and their families, assess their needs and figure out how best to meet them.

“When these folks hear the words ‘You have cancer,’ their whole world is turned upside down,” says Sharon Mast, a social worker at SCI. “The funds from our donors reignite their hope and give them the support they need to get them through the next step in the process.” And that’s the key: When financial burdens can feel insurmountable, you help our patients put one foot in front of the other.

“We can’t solve all of a patient’s financial concerns with $500,” says Jennifer Nordstrom-Lozano, another social worker at SCI. “But we can help that patient feel connected to their care team—to a community.”

Thanks to you, Dale and Steve see that their community is much bigger than they realized. “I can’t say thank you enough,” Dale says. “We feel so fortunate to have the support of the donors.”

Big data, personalized care

One of the most powerful tools we have available for treating patients like Steve is data and the new treatments that can come from it. And thanks to you, we’re collecting more data than ever before through our Personalized Medicine Research Program (PMRP).

The PMRP is fueled by the idea that data is crucial to developing cancer treatments personalized to each patient.

A patient’s genetic makeup, their tumor’s genetic makeup, attempts at treatments and their outcomes—each becomes a data point in our registry, or medical database. And when combined with information from thousands of other patients, that data can be leveraged by our oncologists to offer treatments that are tailored to each patient.

The Personalized Medicine Research Program (PMRP) registry that your gift helped to create will be mined for large research projects in search of tomorrow’s treatments, used in clinical trials for novel medications and even referenced to treat patients today.

Since launching the program we’ve collected this game changing information from nearly 1,300 patients, several hundred of whom opted into the program just last year. Although that may not sound like much—most insurances won’t cover the cost of genetic testing, which has slowed collection—we have made that anonymized data available to several other projects across the country, multiplying its effect.

The more data researchers collect, the better equipped they’ll be to personalize treatments. And with that in mind, we’ve enrolled in Project GENIE, which will combine our registry with those of 18 other prestigious institutions from around the globe, including the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston and Vall d’Hebron Institute of Oncology in Barcelona, Spain.

Long story short: You are fueling a revolutionary, data driven approach to cancer treatment that will help patients here and around the world.

Support for breast cancer survivors

It’s not enough for patients to just survive breast cancer. We want them to thrive.

That’s why we’re so thankful for your support of the VIBE study. While nearly 90% of patients will live at least five years after diagnosis, many will experience side effects from the treatment that include breast pain and a decline in mental sharpness.

How much of that is dictated by a woman’s genetic makeup, though?

That’s the question you’ll help us answer through this study that will launch later this year.

In March we completed the protocols, or roadmap, for the study, and next we will begin collecting biological profiles of patients. Over time, we’ll follow those patients, compiling more data on how they respond to treatment and any genetic changes they experience along the way.

As the study continues, we hope to find connections between certain genes and treatments, making it possible for physicians to match patients with therapies that not only are best suited to beat back their disease, but will also minimize their chances of debilitating side effects.

In an era when data is crucial to cancer research, your contributions are adding up to big changes in treatment and new levels of hope for patients that are impossible to quantify. Thank you!

Want to learn more?

You do so much to provide holistic health care to our patients. Here are a few other programs your giving has made possible this year—

Art and music therapy.
Through art and music you help patients reduce stress and anxiety, improve sleep and relaxation, develop mindfulness practices and build positive coping skills.

Mobile mammography.
With two massive mammography clinics-on-wheels, you bring lifesaving breast cancer screening to women who would otherwise have difficulty accessing medical care.

Social work.
You empower SCI’s staff of 17 social workers to offer our patients emotional and practical guidance, from diagnosis through treatment and beyond.

Ongoing research.
You allow our physicians to go beyond traditional forms of therapy, by constantly searching for new, innovative treatments for all forms of cancer.

Contact Us

To support innovative and compassionate cancer care at Swedish, please contact:

Jeffrey Walker
Senior Director of Philanthropy

Samantha Cook
Philanthropy Officer

2019 Swedish Cancer Institute Impact Report