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Vons Foundation presents USC Norris Cancer Center with nearly $193,000

From left, are Carmen A. Puliafito, Nora Ullmann, Tom LaBonge, Stephen Gruber, Carlos Illingworth and Debu Tripathy (Photo/Amy Hamaker)

Representatives from the Vons Foundation and Los Angeles City Councilman Tom LaBonge visited the Health Sciences Campus on Feb. 11 to present a check for $192,792 to the Women’s Cancer Program at the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center.

The gift is in support of the Personalized Medicine Breast Cancer Program, which is under the direction of Debu Tripathy, professor of medicine and holder of the Priscilla and Art Ulene Chair in Women’s Cancer at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and co-leader of the Women’s Cancer Program.

Thanks to the grant, the Breast Cancer Program will initiate a tracking process with newly diagnosed, consenting patients at Los Angeles County+USC Medical Center to help increase access to information about their specific form of the disease, previous screening and treatment outcomes, and treatment plans going forward.

Stephen Gruber, director of the Norris cancer center, hosted the presentation.

“It’s a privilege to interface with community leaders to really make a difference in the lives of our patients and advance the future of cancer care through research done by Dr. Tripathy,” he said. “We are incredibly grateful for the work that’s done by our community partners to help further our mission, to make cancer a disease of the past.”

Carmen A. Puliafito, dean of the Keck School, added, “This gift is so meaningful because it represents grassroots philanthropy. Dr. Tripathy is really an innovative thinker in treating breast cancer, and we greatly appreciate Vons’ support.”

Patients will be offered counseling and decision support tailored to their language and culture, and they will be helped with screening for opportunities for clinical trials and investigational diagnostic and treatment options. The program plans to develop a mobile phone app and corresponding Web portal to educate patients about their specific form of breast cancer and to help them better communicate with doctors. It will also make iPads available to patients and host live meetings for those without computer access.

“Our employees and customers raised more than $2.1 million for breast cancer prevention and treatment, and when we learned about this innovative project, we were immediately interested in supporting it,” said Carlos Illingworth, Vons director of public affairs and chair of The Vons Foundation. “We believe that it will not only elevate the level of care for breast cancer patients but ultimately also help save lives.”

LaBonge was on hand to offer his congratulations to Tripathy and to honor The Vons Foundation for its commitment.

“For over 100 years, Vons has been active in our Los Angeles community, not only with its markets but with its philanthropy,” he said. “There’s no better place for fighting cancer than USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, where my wife Brigid was treated. This donation was a team effort with folks from Vons and Norris. They are all angels in the City of Angels.”

Tripathy said: “Personalized medicine is the medicine of the future; for cancer, it’s the medicine of the present. We’re entering a new era where we perform personalized medicine on many different levels, ranging from high-tech genomic analysis to personalizing therapy based on patients’ preferences. We can help them make decisions about the many complexities of their care, and we are really thrilled to have an enabling gift to get this effort off the ground.”

The Vons Foundation operates as a subdivision within the Safeway Foundation. Vons, a Safeway company, gives locally in the areas of health and human services, hunger relief, education and helping people to live with disabilities. The Vons Foundation has awarded $286,000 to the cancer center for the I-Spy 2 Project, which has been under the direction of Tripathy since 2010.

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