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Record $2.1 Million Raised at Benefit Gala for Cancer Research at the Siteman Cancer Center

By Joyce Romine

The special guest performer was Martin Short, who lost his wife to cancer. Photo by Peter Newcomb

May 2, 2014 – Cancer got personal Saturday
night at The Foundation for Barnes-Jewish Hospital’s annual illumination Gala. More than 500 guests at The Ritz-Carlton, St. Louis, raised a record-setting $2.1 million for cancer research at the Alvin J. Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

The total was the most ever raised at illumination specifically for the Foundation’s Cancer Frontier Fund. The Cancer Frontier Fund was created to help researchers at the Siteman Cancer Center accelerate breakthroughs that
will change the face of cancer. Currently, funds are supporting research on developing vaccines to prevent breast cancer, personalized vaccines to fight melanoma, a drug to reduce a life-threatening side effects of bone marrow transplants, a genetic test to prevent overtreatment of oral cancer, and other groundbreaking projects.

Award-winning actor, writer and comedian Martin Short was the special guest at the April 26 gala. In addition to his comedy performance, he shared his personal connection to cancer with the audience. His wife, Nancy Dolman, died of ovarian cancer in 2010. Short also lost his mother to breast cancer when he was a teenager.

Gala co-chairs Danny Ludeman, former president and CEO, Wells Fargo Advisors, and Joe Stieven, president and CEO, Stieven Capital Advisors, L.P., led community support for the illumination Gala this year.  Wells Fargo Advisors and Stieven Capital Advisors were presenting sponsors of the gala, which included a cocktail reception, dinner, luxury auction, Fund-A-Cure, and Short’s performance.

Ludeman calls donors, as well as his family and friends who have fought cancer, his heroes.

“Cancer touches far too many of our loved ones," Ludeman said. "Everyone at the event clearly understood the urgency of supporting breakthrough cancer research at Siteman so we don’t lose more of our loved ones to this awful disease. Their generosity was overwhelming.”

Fellow co-chair Joe Stieven says he was moved by the emotional, personal stories shared at illumination.

“The diagnosis of cancer is devastating for families," Stieven said. "Fortunately, lifesaving treatment based on leading-edge research is available at the Siteman Cancer Center. That’s why I’m so thrilled by the outpouring of support. Cancer research just took a giant step forward thanks to our generous donors at illumination.”

Kenneth Suelthaus, board chair for The Foundation for Barnes-Jewish Hospital, says the Foundation has made more than 30 Cancer Frontier Fund grants worth $5.7 million since 2010.

“We award grants to innovative research that would not necessarily receive funding through traditional channels," Suelthaus said. "We look for game changers. The Cancer Frontier Fund gives Siteman researchers the resources that turn clinical trials into treatments. And it’s all possible because of the generous St. Louis community.”

The dollars raised for the Cancer Frontier Fund are already making a difference in cancer care, says Timothy Eberlein, MD, founding director of the Siteman Cancer Center.

"On behalf of the nearly 55,000 patients we treat at Siteman annually, we’re so grateful for the support of the Cancer Frontier Fund through the Foundation," Eberlein said. "This fund allows us to study the newest ideas that have the greatest promise. For example, through gene sequencing, we have been able to create personalized cancer vaccines that use the patient’s own immune system to fight his or her cancer. This could have huge implications for patients with breast cancer and melanoma, initially, as well as many other cancers in the future."

Siteman is an international leader in moving laboratory and pre-clinical research into clinical practice with new methods and interventions to better diagnose, treat and prevent cancer. Siteman offers the expertise of more than 350 Washington University physicians and scientists. This team of cancer experts provides care for about 8,600 newly diagnosed cancer patients each year at Siteman, making it one of the largest cancer centers in the United States.

Siteman is the only cancer center in Missouri to hold the prestigious Comprehensive Cancer Center designation from the National Cancer Institute and membership in the National Comprehensive Cancer Network. Parent institutions Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine also are nationally recognized, with U.S. News & World Report magazine consistently ranking both among the best in the country.

Gifts to The Foundation for Barnes-Jewish Hospital support the patient care, research and innovation, community outreach and educational mission of Barnes-Jewish Hospital and its Washington University Physician colleagues, as well as support the Siteman Cancer Center, Goldfarb School of Nursing at Barnes-Jewish College, and Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital.