When Delphine Hunter met Dominic Femino, M.D., at City of Hope she knew she had found the right surgeon — and the right place — to treat her cancer. Faced with a rare form of the disease, she had been worried; but Femino’s expertise and kind words reassured her and gave her hope.
Hunter was diagnosed with chondrosarcoma, or cancer of the cartilage, in her shoulder in August 2007. Now, two years later, she remains cancer free. Grateful for City of Hope’s care and Femino’s knowledge, she decided to join the corps of City of Hope patients who are fueling the institution’s search for cures.
|Dominic Femino with Delphine Hunter (Photo by Thomas Brown)|
In June, she and her husband, Jim Hunter, made a significant donation to help launch a project involving Femino that will advance research into sarcomas — rare cancers that attack bone and other connective tissue.
The Hunters’ gift was largely inspired by the care she received at City of Hope. After all, experts had told them that standard therapy required amputating her arm, but Femino saved both life and limb.
“He is such an excellent surgeon, such a great man, and I just wanted to support his work,” said Delphine Hunter, an entrepreneur who splits time between homes in Palm Desert, Calif., and Medford, Ore.
Because sarcomas are so rare — with about 13,000 new cases diagnosed in the U.S. each year — individual medical centers usually cannot gather enough patients on their own to conduct research with reliable results. Femino wants to bring centers together to pool their cases, potentially speeding new therapies.
“Sarcomas are almost an orphan disease because they are so rare,” said Femino, chief of the Division of Orthopaedic Surgery and associate director of the Musculoskeletal Tumor Program. “If sarcoma programs work together, we’ll be able to make some real clinical advances in treatment for our patients.”
He is among the leaders of the new Western Sarcoma Team, or WEST. This online consortium aims to link City of Hope, the largest sarcoma program in Southern California, with other West Coast sarcoma research hubs to share data and collaborate on clinical trials. Participating institutions include Childrens Hospital Los Angeles, University of Washington and University of California, San Francisco.
Sarcomas tend to draw far less attention and spur less advocacy than more common cancers. That makes garnering sarcoma research dollars difficult — and why, according to Femino, the Hunters’ support means so much.
“Individual patient donations are really critical to starting up an effort like WEST,” said Femino. “I expect the Hunters’ generosity to have a longstanding impact on the care of sarcoma patients up and down the West Coast.”