Portland, Or. More than 500 supporters of Providence Cancer Center came together at the Creating Hope Dinner to hear messages of gratitude from patients who found life through immunotherapy clinical trials. This year, the benefit raised a record $775,000. That, combined with Safeway’s annual “round up for cancer” during May pushed research donations to more than $1.2 million for the month. At the dinner, Walter Urba, Providence M.D., Ph.D., talked with NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Fouts and Dave Underriner, Providence Health & Services Oregon Region chief executive. (Dan Fouts also played for the Oregon Ducks in the early ’70s.)

Patients benefitting from this research were filled with gratitude as they told their stories during the May 24th Creating Hope Dinner. Julie Randall and her husband Scott returned from their native Australia to give witness at the dinner to the life-saving work at Providence Cancer Center.

Julie Randall found a Providence clinical trial while searching online after receiving her stage 4 metastatic melanoma diagnosis on her 50th birthday. Instead of dying within months, she is alive and well five years after participating in the trial. Through tears, Scott told the crowd filled with researchers, clinicians and donors who support research, “Thank you for giving us back our Julie.”

Diane Davis was dying of stage 4 ovarian cancer, complicated by a specific gene mutation, when she happened to stumble across Providence’s work with immunotherapy. The Corvallis woman contacted Providence, and two immunotherapy trials later she is free of her ovarian cancer and her TP-53 mutated gene.

Diane Davis thanked the donors at the dinner. “Your generosity funded the research that made it possible for me to be here in front of you today,” said Davis. “Because of you, I am still living a full life, going on my third year since I was supposed to have died.”

Providence Cancer Center researchers Eric Tran, Ph.D., and Bernard Fox, Ph.D., explain the latest advancements in immunotherapy clinical trials and treatment to Providence Creating Hope Dinner emcee and AM Northwest host Helen Raptis.

Providence routinely has well over 100 open clinical trials at any given time, according to Bernard Fox, Ph.D., Harder Family Chair for Cancer Research and Member and Chief of the Laboratory of Molecular and Tumor Immunology at the Robert W. Franz Cancer Research Center in the Earle A. Chiles Research Institute. He attributes the robust clinical trial volume to donor support. “Seventy percent of research funding is now thanks to philanthropy,” Fox told the Creating Hope Dinner attendees. “Knowing we have your support, we are able to attract the leaders of the next generation of researchers – including Eric Tran.”

Eric Tran, Ph.D., a National Cancer Institute-trained scientist was welcomed to the Earle A. Chiles Research Institute faculty, at Providence Cancer Center, earlier this year, at the very time his immunotherapy research, entitled “T-Cell Transfer Therapy Targeting Mutant KRAS in Cancer,” was published in the New England Journal of Medicine. In addition, Tran was just recognized as one of 15 most promising young researchers in the nation for 2017 by the Sidney Kimmel Foundation for Cancer Research. The honor comes with a $200,000 two-year grant to support his research.

“Eric could have gone anywhere, he was heavily recruited, but he chose to come here, in part, because of all of you who support immunotherapy research at Providence,” said Walter J. Urba, M.D., Ph.D., oncologist and director, Robert W. Franz Cancer Research Center in the Earle A. Chiles Research Institute at Providence. “We are a global leader in immunotherapy research,” said Dr. Urba. “To remain a global presence we must grow our team with brilliant scientists who are curious, passionate and supremely talented – and Eric is one of those scientists.”

Tran acknowledged the philanthropic support of the Portland community and told the dinner crowd he joined Providence because the research program is world class and focuses on immunotherapy which will synergize with his research. “We have the knowledge today to make a huge difference in the lives of people with cancer,” said Tran, assistant member Antitumor T-cell Response Lab. “We can change the face of cancer forever.”

“All of our researchers are amazing, and they share a common passion – our patients,” said Dr. Urba. “Everything done in the lab is in service to those with cancer, now or in the future. We work to give patients hope.”

From Providence Cancer Center:

At Providence Cancer Center, we work together to give patients and families the best care on the West Coast. We partner with them from diagnosis and treatment through all the stages of life, ensuring an excellent patient experience and seeking the best outcomes through research and innovation.