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Amplify Your Impact: Engage Your Personal Networks to Accelerate Innovation in Cancer Care

“Alone, we can do so little; together, we can do so much” – Helen Keller

Siteman Cancer Center has a proud history of community support. From the very beginning, Siteman was a community-based initiative representing a crucial partnership between Barnes-Jewish Hospital, The Foundation for Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine.

Though the center was named for philanthropist Alvin J. Siteman, the establishment of a new cancer center couldn’t have been achieved alone; it would take an entire community to mobilize and plan to ultimately break ground on what is now considered one of the premier cancer centers in the U.S.

Thanks to the countless community leaders, led by Alvin Siteman and Andrew B. Craig III, who tapped their personal and professional networks to garner support for the initiative, Siteman is now the third largest cancer center in the U.S. In all, the effort to open Siteman included more than 12,000 donors coming together to make the vision of a world-class cancer center become a reality in St. Louis.

Today, 20 years later, Siteman cares for more than 75,000 patients annually, including 12,500 newly diagnosed who come from all 50 states and many countries to receive leading-edge treatment.

Siteman and the Foundation are proud to carry this tradition forward. Our shared history is a story of individuals banding together for the common good to accelerate innovation in cancer care and treatment, with one common goal—to save more lives.

Each donor, with gifts of all sizes, becomes a catalyst to encourage others, including friends, family, colleagues and grateful patients, to make similar investments that amplify the collective impact. "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world,” said Margaret Mead, an American cultural anthropologist. “Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."

Bringing Proton Therapy Technology to Siteman

Not unlike Siteman Cancer Center itself, the S. Lee Kling Proton Therapy Center was made possible by one man tapping his personal and professional networks to multiply his impact. When S. Lee Kling, a prominent St. Louis philanthropist, civic leader and former chairman of the Foundation board, was diagnosed with tumors in his eye, he had to travel all the way to San Francisco for his initial surgery and then to Boston to receive proton beam therapy, a targeted radiation treatment to eliminate cancer cells without harming surrounding tissues in delicate areas like the head and neck.

In 2008, Kling made a gift to the Foundation to support bringing this technology to St. Louis, but he realized the true power of change lies in the collective impact of our gifts. He led fundraising efforts, and in the end, the S. Lee Kling Proton Therapy Center and the S. Lee Kling Chair for Radiation Oncology were made possible by more than 200 donors, inspired by the generosity and leadership of the center’s namesake. This created a ripple effect that continues to lead to even greater advancements; early in 2020, the S. Lee Kling Proton Therapy Center introduced the latest pencil beam technology to target cancer with even further specificity and precision.                                    

Accelerating Cancer Research through the Cancer Frontier Fund

After Bill Koman, a two-time lymphoma survivor, received treatment at Siteman Cancer Center, he knew he wanted to do all he could to ensure the center’s physician-scientists had the resources to continue their leading-edge research that ultimately translates to better care. He and his wife, Amy, created the Koman Chair in Medical Oncology to support improved clinical care for patients with lymphoma. Nancy L. Bartlett, MD, was appointed to the chair, and thanks to her efforts, the lymphoma program at Siteman is considered a national leader in clinical trials aimed at evaluating new approaches in lymphoma treatment.

But they didn’t stop there. The couple realized that if they wanted to speed research into all types of cancer, they needed to serve as the motivation for making cancer research a priority in the St. Louis region. They worked with leadership at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine to launch the Cancer Frontier Fund at the Foundation’s Illumination Gala in 2009. The fund is designed to speed breakthroughs in cancer prevention, diagnosis, treatment and cure.

Since its inception, thousands of donors have contributed to the fund, resulting in more than 125 leading-edge cancer research projects to date.

Pedal the Cause, an annual cycling event created by the Komans, also supports the Cancer Frontier Fund.

“Your gift does not need to have a lot of zeroes at the end to be welcome,” Bill says. “Imagine the huge if impact 50,000 people gave $50 each to the Cancer Frontier Fund…That adds up to $2.5 million!”

Investing in Lymphoma Research

Ken Steinback, a St. Louis businessman and former chairman of the Foundation board, is now in remission after three bouts of an aggressive form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma that started with his first diagnosis in 2000.

To show his immense gratitude for his oncologist, Nancy L. Bartlett, MD, the Koman Chair of Medical Oncology, Ken and his wife, Marilyn, established The Kenneth B. Steinback Cancer Research Fund, which was formally launched at the Foundation in 2008 to provide the financial resources needed for Dr. Bartlett and her team to lead lymphoma research.

Since the formation of the Steinback fund, 313 donors have given and/or pledged a total of more than $1,439,000 through 733 individual gifts.

In 2018, Ken, along with Bob Virgil and Bill Koman, launched a fundraising initiative to support early stage research being led by Dr. Bartlett and her team. This research will be instrumental in advancing understanding of the progression and treatment of lymphoma. The important resources raised will also help attract additional scientists who can expand the promising projects underway.

Investing in Research Today to Save Future Patients

Pat Burkhart had just retired when she learned she had HER2-positive breast cancer. Just 10 years ago this would have been a devastating diagnosis with a grim prognosis; today, thanks in part to funding of cancer research, her cancer was highly treatable.  

Pat was so moved by her experience that she decided to devote her life to helping other patients who have cancer—and give back through the Foundation to advance cancer research. Pat and her husband, Mark, created the Pat Burkhart Breast Cancer Fund to benefit the research of Pat’s physician Katherine Weilbaecher, MD, who is investigating ways to deliver highly targeted drugs to kill breast cancer tumors.

According to Pat, there’s no time to waste when it comes to funding cancer research. “You have to pay it forward,” she says. “You have to think about your friends, your family, loved ones, people you don’t even know, that are going to have a cancer diagnosis in the future. It’s the efforts that are happening today that could be the answer for them.”

As co-chairs of the 2020 Illumination Gala, Pat and Mark are rallying friends, family and colleagues to support cancer research to bring results to patients sooner.

These are just some of the amazing networks behind the incredible progress in cancer research and treatment that have taken place at Siteman over the last 20 years. We look forward to sharing more examples in the coming weeks of how ordinary people can come together to make extraordinary change in cancer care through The Foundation for Barnes-Jewish Hospital.

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