A frightened 39-year-old woman with young children was referred by a friend to the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center and Hospital because of recurrent lung cancer. A multidisciplinary team, including a radiologist, pathologist, surgeon and oncologist, evaluated her case.
Within a week, the woman came to Norris Cancer Center, where a lung cancer expert performed minimally invasive robotic surgery. The pathologist performed molecular profiling of her tumor to determine which targeted drugs would be helpful to her.
When Norris Cancer Center Director Stephen Gruber visited the woman the day after surgery, “she was sitting up in bed laughing with her husband and eating ice cream,” he said.
Her treatment was one example of the special care offered at the cancer center “spanning the entire spectrum from prevention to treatment for advanced disease,” Gruber said when speaking to members of the Legacy Circle at a luncheon in their honor held this summer at the California Club.
Members of the Legacy Circle have made planned gifts to the cancer center, the Keck School of Medicine of USC or the Keck Medical Center of USC.
Their gifts “truly make a difference in our future,” Gruber said. “I am confident that medicine in the future is going to be great, and it’s certainly going to be great at the Keck Medical Center of USC.”
This year, Gruber said, the cancer center is celebrating its 40th anniversary as one of the eight original comprehensive cancer centers designated by the National Cancer Institute. This occasion “gives us an opportunity to move forward with vision and strategic direction.”
Emphasizing precision medicine and multidisciplinary care, the cancer center is fulfilling the mission articulated by philanthropist Kenneth Norris Jr. “to make cancer a disease of the past,” Gruber said.
“One of the ways we can do that is by being much more precise about the medicines we design and the ways in which we deliver treatments,” he noted. “Recognizing that everyone reacts to medications a little differently, personalizing medications is one of the ways that we can get the right medication to the right patient for the right tumor.”
Gruber outlined some of the cancer center’s work in preventing cancer by enhancing vaccination rates for human papillomavirus, in treating cancer with highly precise robotic surgery and in developing new treatments through clinical trials, such as one that stimulates the immune system simultaneously with chemotherapy.
Other speakers at the Legacy Circle luncheon were Arielle Sommer, a fourth-year student at the Keck School, and Laurie Stone, executive director of land use and planning for USC’s Department of Real Estate and Asset Management. Clara Driscoll, senior executive director of planned giving, welcomed guests.