CTRC Cabinet mission is more important than ever
Each year, about 14 million people learn they have cancer and 8 million die from the disease worldwide. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that one-third of cancer deaths can be prevented, but oftentimes the disease progresses too quickly. For other patients especially those living in low- and middle-income regions, treatment services and technologies are not widely available to help them.
Fortunately advanced cancer treatment and care is accessible in the heart of Texas at the Cancer Therapy & Research Center (CTRC) at the UT Health Science Center San Antonio. One group of hardworking individuals, called the CTRC Cabinet, is helping to ensure that these cancer care resources thrive and are obtainable for generations to come.
Friends join Cabinet to help others
Longtime friends and CTRC Cabinet co-chairs Karen Heintz, Lori Wright and Carl Raba know firsthand how cancer impacts lives. They have all seen loved ones and close friends diagnosed or taken by the disease. That’s why they rose to the challenge when asked to join the CTRC Cabinet of the Cancer Therapy & Research Center (CTRC) at the UT Health Science Center. This year, they are leading the fundraising efforts as Cabinet co-chairs to benefit the CTRC’s Institute for Drug Development (IDD), the research arm of the CTRC. Their goal for 2016 is to raise $750,000.
Heintz' husband, Phil, battled non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma for several years until he passed away in 2009. “Treatment at the Cancer Therapy & Research Center extended Phil’s life and the quality of his life until his passing,” Heintz said. “Not only did he receive the most advanced treatment, he was treated with great patience and kindness by the doctors, nurses and staff, and that made a positive difference in his life and mine. The treatments discovered at the IDD are amazing. Many are FDA approved and are truly helping patients.”
Heintz' daughter, Sharon, was also was later diagnosed with cancer at age 41, said she wants to help tell more people about the new and affordable treatments and care available in San Antonio so patients don’t have to travel far to get help.
Wright's husband, Mark, who was diagnosed with brain cancer, agrees. “The CTRC is a gem in our hometown,” Wright said. “We want to be proactive and tell the world so the CTRC can continue to purchase needed equipment and recruit the best and most talented researchers.” Wright said she is blessed that with exceptional treatment and care, her husband is doing well. Both continue to devote their time to supporting the CTRC. “When you see patients thriving as a result of successful cancer treatment efforts, it’s exciting and brings so much hope for the future.”
Raba's daughter, Cathy, was diagnosed with a rare type of cancer in 2011 also agrees. "Cathy's doctors at the CTRC and UT Medicine are the best. We have been overwhelmed by their exceptional skills as surgerons as well as by their sensitivity and compassion. San Antonio needs more doctors like them. Patients like Cathy don't have to travel outside of the city for this kind of care. It's right here."
Institute for Drug Development (IDD)
As a leader in developing new drugs to treat cancer, the Institute for Drug Development (IDD) at the CTRC conducts one of the largest oncology Phase I clinical drug programs in the world. More than 4,000 patients have been treated in early phase trials. With trial locations available to patients in more than 47 counties throughout South Texas, the CTRC is bringing new hope and health to a wider population by shrinking the distance patients need to travel to receive the latest and greatest cancer treatments available.
Patients progress through IDD trials
Karnes City resident Larry Hedtke, is just one example of the many patients benefiting from the research and clinical trials at the IDD.
Hard-working rancher, Hedtke, 65, ignored his fatigue and symptoms until he became gravely ill. That’s when he learned he had a deadly cancer called multiple myeloma. At first, no treatments seemed to work. Aggressive chemotherapy, surgery and even a stem cell transplant couldn’t stop the cancer from relapsing. It wasn’t until his doctor suggested he enroll in a clinical trial of a drug called carfilzomib, that he finally found relief. And in January 2014, Hedtke joined the study through the IDD at the CTRC.
Today, Hedtke reports he’s feeling great and closer to normal.
“This experience changed how I look at friends,” Hedtke said, now counting among them the faculty and staff of the CTRC. “They are there when you need them, and if you’ve got them, keep them,” he said.
Why join the CTRC Cabinet?
The CTRC Cabinet is a dedicated group of CTRC supporters who provide annual gifts of $1,500 or more (effective 01/01/2016). This year, every Cabinet gift will directly impact the CTRC’s visionary goal to raise $750,000 to help fund the cancer research initiatives at the Institute for Drug Development (IDD).
Cabinet members receive name recognition, invitations to special events, such as the Annual Cabinet Reception and the UT Health Science Center’s President’s Gala, and regular communication materials.
Ian M. Thompson Jr., M.D., director of the CTRC and a proud member of the CTRC Cabinet, said Cabinet membership and support is vital.
“We are moving into a new era in cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment,” Dr. Thompson said. “Our task is challenging as cancer is such a complicated disease. Each time we discover a new mechanism by which tumors develop or spread, we find new questions that must be answered for us to find a cure. I see thousands of patients each year with cancer and each and every one of them is a very special person to me. This is the attitude of all of our physicians. We want a cure today; now.”