City of Hope extends its innovative cancer supportive care practices across the nation through a $1 million gift from The Sheri and Les Biller Family Foundation

February 13, 2018
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Letisia Marquez
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Two linked projects will train health professionals throughout the country and expand supportive care at City of Hope’s community practice sites in Southern California

DUARTE, Calif. — City of Hope has received a $1 million gift from The Sheri and Les Biller Family Foundation to launch two transformative supportive care projects to train oncologists, nurses and other health care professionals to deliver the institution’s signature compassionate, holistic cancer care.

City of Hope’s Sheri & Les Biller Patient and Family Resource Center – one of the most widely-respected and emulated programs of its kind in supportive care medicine – will guide these two projects over a three-year period. A national supportive care training program will educate more than 1,500 health professionals from top health systems across the country in City of Hope’s internationally recognized supportive care program. The program addresses the psychological, social and spiritual needs of patients and their loved ones in tandem with patients’ clinical treatment. Select City of Hope community practice sites will also participate in an expanded training and service delivery program.

“City of Hope is extremely grateful for the continued generosity of the Biller family. Their vision and support accelerates our impact as we strive to reach a critical mass of health care professionals to deliver holistic, patient-centric cancer care to as many patients as possible,” said Robert W. Stone, City of Hope’s president and chief executive officer.

The new projects build upon the Billers’ longtime support of City of Hope’s Department of Supportive Care Medicine. The Biller Patient and Family Resource Center pioneered revolutionary SupportScreen technology, a touch-screen application that asks patients a wide range of questions to address physical and psychosocial concerns common to their diagnosis. The center also championed patient navigators to personally help guide patients and their families through diagnosis and treatment.

“The need for supportive care is fast becoming an epidemic problem in the United States. Most of us have friends and family who have been treated at other medical centers that do not have the same intensive quality of care as City of Hope, and those results can be devastating. This grant will be used to train medical professionals nationwide in our supportive care model which will benefit patients and their caregivers wherever they are treated,” said Sheri and Les Biller.

William Dale, M.D., Ph.D., Arthur M. Coppola Family Chair in Supportive Care Medicine and clinical professor and chair, Department of Supportive Care Medicine, and Matthew Loscalzo, L.C.S.W., Liliane Elkins Endowed Professor in Supportive Care Programs and administrative director of the Biller Patient and Family Resource Center, will lead the projects. A training curriculum, toolkit and blueprint for supportive care services will be created; telemedicine and online learning will supplement in-person training.

“This effort is extremely timely,” Dale said. “The vast majority of cancer patients nationwide are now receiving outpatient treatment in their communities. In addition, our rapidly aging population requires greater assistance in dealing with the consequences of serious illness and the side effects of treatment.”

Research shows that supportive care decreases medical costs, enhances quality of life for patients, and even extends life in certain patients.

The trainings will also integrate palliative care, which provides physical, psychological and spiritual assistance for patients faced with a serious disease. Despite the clear benefits of palliative care, the number of palliative care physicians is woefully insufficient to meet the rapidly growing patient demand for those services, Dale said. “Additional training is urgently needed to ensure that all cancer-based health professionals have the requisite primary supportive care skills to manage the multitude of complex patient challenges related to cancer,” Dale said. “These projects will enable a systematic transfer of knowledge from highly trained supportive care experts to frontline health care professionals.”

Participants, who will be known as Biller Fellows, will learn about biopsychosocial patient screening, how to facilitate family conferences on providing the best care and end-of-life conversations, and learn to tailor their communications to each patient and family. Biller Fellows, particularly those at smaller hospitals or community physician offices with limited resources, will be encouraged to mentor other health professionals in best supportive care practices.

“City of Hope’s Department of Supportive Care Medicine on the Duarte campus has a highly trained team of palliative care experts, child life specialists, social workers, psychologists, chaplains, pain management physicians and others in 13 specialty areas,” said Loscalzo, who has led National Institutes of Health grants at the Biller Patient and Family Resource Center that have trained more than 1,500 health professionals in supportive care. “We want to extend as much of this care as possible to sites that have significant patient needs. Our goal is to provide seamless, high-quality care throughout our growing network of community sites and extend our impact to an outpatient environment.”

About City of Hope
City of Hope is an independent research and treatment center for cancer, diabetes and other life-threatening diseases. Designated as one of only 49 comprehensive cancer centers, the highest recognition bestowed by the National Cancer Institute, City of Hope is also a founding member of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, with research and treatment protocols that advance care throughout the world. City of Hope is located in Duarte, California, just northeast of Los Angeles, with community clinics throughout Southern California. It is ranked as one of "America's Best Hospitals" in cancer by U.S. News & World Report. Founded in 1913, City of Hope is a pioneer in the fields of bone marrow transplantation, diabetes and numerous breakthrough cancer drugs based on technology developed at the institution.
 
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About the Sheri and Les Biller Family Foundation
The Sheri and Les Biller Family Foundation, based in Seattle, fulfills its mission to invest in bold ideas that inspire collective action in order to achieve powerful results in the four focus areas of public education, social impact theatre, career pathways and supportive care. The Foundation was founded in 2001 by Sheri and Les Biller. For more information, please visit The Sheri and Les Biller Family Foundation’s website at www.billerfamilyfoundation.org, or follow on Twitter @billerFamFdtn, or on Facebook.