Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Breakthrough Bike Challenge: Inspiring Progress in Cancer Research at Penn

This dedicated group will ride again on May 31, 2015

"The care that the doctors delivered to my husband Muscoe, and the care with which it was delivered, made all the difference during his cancer journey." — Jennifer Pinto-Martin, PhD, MPH, grateful family member

A diagnosis of glioblastoma is a devastating piece of news for patients and their loved ones. This aggressive form of brain cancer has no cure and treatment options have varying degrees of success. At Penn Medicine's Abramson Cancer Center, physician-scientists work tirelessly to develop the latest personalized, innovative therapies that hold promise to one day turn the tide on brain cancer.

For Jennifer Pinto-Martin, PhD, MPH, Viola MacInnes/Independence Professor of Nursing and Chair of Behavioral Health Sciences in the School of Nursing, the ACC's efforts strike a very personal note. Her husband, Muscoe, an accomplished architect and loving father, was diagnosed with glioblastoma. His fight and ability to remain strong in the face of an incredibly challenging cancer diagnosis, was an inspiration. Jennifer was struck by the commitment of Muscoe’s doctors, Timothy H. Lucas Jr., MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Neurosurgery, and Arati S. Desai, MD, MAS, Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine. "We always felt like they had all the time in the world to answer our questions and to care for us," shared Jennifer.

Jennifer, motivated both by Muscoe's fight and the level of care by his doctors, set out to raise support for Penn Medicine's Abramson Cancer Center. She joined with a group of friends to create the Breakthrough Bike Challenge in 2014, an event that brought together cyclists for a ride in Valley Forge to raise support for the ACC. The ride was an overwhelming success, raising over $50,000 in its inaugural year to fund glioblastoma and lymphoma research at Penn.

This year, on May 31, cyclists will once again gear up and hit the road. The Breakthrough Bike Challenge leadership team—which includes Jennifer, Chris Hall, Randy Bown, Jeff Krieger, and Ernie Tracy—believes this is just the beginning and that their event will continue to gain traction, funding cancer research in a strategic way and rewarding the most promising lines of research. In fact, 100% of the proceeds from the Breakthrough Bike Challenge will support the research of junior investigators through a pilot program at the ACC.

While this year's ride is poised to become another resounding success, there will be a noticeable absence in the crowd of supporters. Muscoe Martin passed away in December 2014. Despite the fact that he will not be physically present for the 2nd Annual Breakthrough Bike Challenge, his presence will no doubt be felt by everyone, and the impact of the work of Muscoe, Jennifer, and others will be felt as the ACC continues to make advances—rather, breakthroughs—in the treatment of cancer.

Please visit to read more about the ride and become involved in this phenomenal fundraising effort that brings hope to patients everywhere. To get involved in raising funds for glioblastoma research, click here, or contact Andrew Bellet at 215-573-0548 or

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Penn Medicine’s Abramson Cancer Center is Teaching the World and Inspiring Philanthropic Partners

“Knowing the world is looking to the Abramson Cancer Center empowered me, and it should empower us all, to support these men and women whose groundbreaking treatments are finding solutions for previously unsolvable problems.”—Cynthia Horowitz, cancer survivor and partner in hope

From Pennsylvania to California, and Europe to Asia, physicians from around the country and globe are traveling to the Abramson Cancer Center (ACC) to observe and learn about TransOral Robotic Surgery (TORS)—a groundbreaking surgical approach that removes previously un-reachable tumors found in the mouth, voice box, tonsil, tongue, and other parts of the throat.

Penn Medicine is home to the world’s first TORS Program, helping to bring this innovative surgical technique to benefit of patients abroad as well as those in the Abramson Cancer Center’s ”back yard,” and serves as the international epicenter for skull-based surgery education.

One of those beneficiaries is Cynthia Horowitz, who was diagnosed with tonsil cancer in 2012, and was immediately referred by her ear, nose, and throat specialist in New Jersey to Gregory S. Weinstein, MD, FASC, co-director of the Center for Head and Neck Cancer at Penn Medicine’s ACC.

“My doctor had recently attended a TransOral Robotic Surgery (TORS) seminar run by Dr. Weinstein, and told me that the remarkable advancements happening in treating my cancer were happening at the Abramson Cancer Center,” Mrs. Horowitz explained.

“He said if it was he or a member of his family with tonsil cancer, Dr. Weinstein would be his only choice for surgical care.”

The Abramson Cancer Center’s Scientific and Surgical Revolution

TORS is a revolutionary minimally invasive surgery utilizing the Da Vinci® robotic surgical system that was developed by Dr. Weinstein and Dr. Bert O’Malley at Penn Medicine—that reduces healing time and significantly improves patients’ quality of life.

But it wasn’t just being in the hands of the surgeon that pioneered a revolutionary new approach to surgery that put Mrs. Horowitz at ease. It was the attentive care she was given by her entire cancer care team.

“When I came to my first appointment with Dr. Weinstein I had pages of questions, and valued the time and commitment he and his team gave to each and every one of them,” Mrs. Horowitz explained. “I was given all the time I needed to understand my treatment plan, and was put at ease with my options. This was incredibly important as I adjusted to my cancer diagnosis.”

While Dr. Weinstein and Mrs. Horowitz’s care team exhibited incredible compassion, the revolutionary procedure also lived up to its promise. Mrs. Horowitz’s hard-to-reach tumor was successfully removed and she is back to spending time with her two children and enjoy traveling with her husband, Larry.

“Looking at me today,” Mrs. Horowitz explained, “no one would know what I went through. I am a healthy individual with no distracting visible signs of my surgery.”

World Leaders in TransOral Robotic Surgery

Almost a decade after the TORS program was established at Penn, the vast majority of surgeons who have established TORS programs in the United States and abroad were trained at Penn Medicine. In July 2014, the Department of Otorhinolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery hosted 240 members of the otorhinolaryngology community, representing 33 countries and 25 states during the 1st International TransOral Robot Surgery (TORS) Conference.

Penn Medicine is truly leading and teaching the world—but we are doing it with a compassionate touch.

“Every day I marvel at how far we have come, and how fortunate I am to have been a part of the scientific and surgical revolution happening at the Abramson Cancer Center—and I am in awe of the confident and compassionate care I received during my throat cancer treatment. I am so thankful to be alive and healed, and recognize that philanthropy is the key to continuing these innovative advancements.”

Monday, February 23, 2015

Artist and Survivor Finds Inspiration During his Cancer Journey

“We discovered that the Abramson Cancer Center was a place that was really thinking through these big problems in cancer, and studying them as they are happening. In the cancer world, things are changing every day. It’s this moving target, so I was grateful to have found a place that values research, especially with a case like mine that doesn’t fit the mold. They created this treatment for me, and that was really important.”
- Jacob Riley-Wasserman, esophageal cancer survivor

Jacob Riley-Wasserman was only 23 when he was diagnosed with esophageal cancer.

He had just started a graduate program at NYU when he got the news, and was forced onto a much different path than most of his peers. “I felt like this doesn’t usually happen to someone my age, and so there’s no way that this could be that bad. It took a while to sort of just process it,” shared Jacob.

He turned to Penn’s Abramson Cancer Center and the Roberts Proton Therapy Center for treatment, which included 6 weeks of proton radiation and chemotherapy, to be followed by surgery. It was at the Roberts Center that Jacob became fascinated by the treatment process, as well as the technology and research that led to its advancement.

“The doctors at Penn really looked at me as a person. They didn’t look at me as a patient with esophageal cancer. They looked at me as Jacob with esophageal cancer, which was really important, because I’m a 23-year-old with esophageal cancer and that’s most common in 80-year-old men. They saw me, and they saw the things that I was interested in doing, and helped me make those really important connections that helped me think through this treatment.”

As a designer and artist, Jacob was especially drawn to the compensator blocks used to direct the proton beam to the treatment area.

“Compensator blocks are custom made to fit the patient and their particular tumor,” says Jim Metz, MD, interim chair of radiation oncology at Penn. “Before proton therapy begins, the blocks are created based on scans of the patient’s anatomy and tumor site. Each time they come in for therapy, the compensator blocks are placed in the beam line to shape the distribution of protons over the target area while sparing exposure to normal tissue.”

Jacob was so fascinated with the compensator block, he asked to take his home. “They have my anatomy carved into them, and they catch the light in this really beautiful way. Now I have them as book ends on my shelf; they have my name on them and my completion date.”

Then he had another idea. “I thought it would be a cool thing to start offering to patients,” says Jacob. In response, the Roberts Proton Therapy Center started a program in which patients take their blocks home, and make a small donation to the Beam of Life Campaign to support patient care, education, and research initiatives, so all patients can benefit.

Also a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design, Jacob’s received much acclaim for his Star Spangled Spatula design. After being diagnosed with cancer, Jacob thoughtfully added a philanthropic component to his business, donating half of the proceeds from his sales to the Abramson Cancer Center.

After taking a year off for treatments, Jacob is doing well back at NYU, busy taking classes and thinking of his next big idea.

To purchase a Star Spangled Spatula, or to learn more about Jacob, visit

Click here to make a gift to the Beam of Life Campaign for Radiation Oncology.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Abramson Cancer Center: Helping Patients and Families Start the New Year Off Right

We’re dedicated to providing our patients’ and families’ access to the most advanced possible research and patient care programs to ensure they have the best options to prevent, treat, and live after cancer. The Abramson Cancer Center supports patients throughout their cancer journey, giving them important tools to help ease the burden that cancer can bring, and help them heal.

BRAIN Behavioral Change Center

Dr. Caryn Lerman is leading the charge to better understand the brain's role in decision making, and develop ways to strengthen your resolve to make healthier life decisions, like quitting smoking and overeating. Watch a video about the BRAIN initiative here.

Smoking cessation programs are available through the Paul F. Harron, Jr. Lung Center.

Tracey L. Birnhak Nutritional Counseling Program

A healthy diet can help lower your risk for cancer, and prevent recurrence. The Tracey L. Birnhak Nutritional Counseling Program is a vital component to our patients care. Hear more healthy eating tips here.

Integrative Medicine and Wellness
See a video about how reiki, yoga, acupuncture, massage and other tools are helping to ease the burden of cancer for our patients and families. Join efforts to raise funds for a dedicated Relax and Renew Retreat for cancer patients by making a gift here. 

Mindfulness Meditation
Whether or not you have been directly affected by cancer, mindfulness meditation tools are a powerful way to increase awareness and methods to cope with stress. For course offerings or to make a gift to support bringing mindfulness to more people, click here.

Survivorship Program
Life doesn’t stop with cancer, and as survivorship continues to improve, it is important to be aware of potential long-term side effects from treatments, risk factors to discuss with your primary care physician, as well as screenings for recurrence. Read the story of Shantae ‘Shani’ Ockimey, a childhood cancer survivor and program participant.

The emotional toll that cancer brings can be overwhelming. Whether you are more comfortable in a group or individual setting, seeking counseling to talk about your cancer experience is an important part of one’s care. Support groups, psychosocial counselors through the Paula A. Seidman Psychosocial Counseling Program, social workers, and navigators are available to help at little or no cost.

OncoLink is the web’s first cancer information resource, started at Penn before Google and Yahoo, and provides important information and resources about cancer care, as well as blogs from a diverse set of voices. Check out their Holiday Survival Guide for helpful hints and precious memories from cancer survivors and their families.

Patient Education Conferences are available at no cost throughout the year, providing a forum to learn from experts across disciplines about the latest advances in care and treatment as well as meet other patients and survivors during these day-long, disease-specific conferences. See upcoming events here.

Giving Back

Philanthropy enables the Abramson Cancer Center to stay at the forefront of advanced research and provide the most comprehensive compassionate care and support services – providing hope to patients and families. Help support our mission by making a gift today.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Harron Lung Center Gift

John Hansen-Flaschen, MD, first met Paul Harron, Jr., in 2005, when he was emergently transferred to HUP in respiratory failure. “He said hello and then I intubated him,” he said. When they took up the conversation again, “Paul asked me what I was passionate about. I told him my lifelong dream was to create a lung center,” he said. “He took an interest in what we were doing.” Sadly, Harron, who was a broadcast and cable television pioneer, died before he could help Hansen-Flaschen realize his dream but his family followed through, honoring his commitment to support the lung center with a $10 million gift.

(From left) Giovanna Imbesi and Patti Imbesi (Paul’s sister and niece), John Hansen-Flaschen, MD, and his daughter, Lauren Billheimer, and Denis Hadjiliadis, MD, the Paul F. Harron Jr. Associate Professor of Medicine, of Pulmonary, Allergy & Critical Care.

“The Harron Center is the embodiment of John’s work,” said Michael Parmacek, MD, chair of Medicine, at the recent naming of the Paul F. Harron, Jr. Lung Center. “Humanism and caring touches everything he does. We need more physicians like John Hansen-Flaschen.”

Hansen-Flaschen modeled his idea for a multidisciplinary lung center on weekly conferences in the 1960s when specialists from pulmonary, thoracic surgery, radiology, and lung pathology would get together to discuss cases of interest and get to know each other. The Harron Center naming gift “provided funding for the physical space of the center, endowed two department professorships, delivered essential research support, and enabled us to offer one-stop convenience to our patients,” he said. “I am so grateful to members of his family.”

“The family’s generosity will have a huge impact on Penn for a long time, “ said J. Larry Jameson, MD, PhD, executive vice president of the University of Pennsylvania for the Health System and Dean of the Perelman School of Medicine.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Mary’s Merry Mice

Four years ago, Mary Hopkinson started a project called Mary’s Merry Mice, while she was battling primary peritoneal cancer at Penn Medicine’s Abramson Cancer Center. Knowing first-hand how trying it can be to undergo chemotherapy treatments during the holidays, Mary was inspired to brighten the spirits of her fellow patients and use her own creativity and experience to do so. She crafted thousands of felt mice ornaments with candy canes and distributed them at local hospitals, before she lost her own battle in September 2013.
12 year old, Trayton Budrow, with Mary's Merry Mice
To honor Mary’s spirit her close friend, Cindy Dabback, promised to continue this thoughtful tradition that brings smiles to the faces of patients in our community. This year, Cindy and volunteers have distributed 4,200 of Mary’s Merry Mice among five local hospitals, including the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania.

Trayton Budrow with his mom, Lisa Budrow, and Cindy Dabback, volunteered to hand out Mary's Merry Mice at the Abramson Cancer Center.
Honor a loved one affected by cancer and raise vital funding by creating a giving page at To learn more about ways you can help give back and inspire hope, contact Penn Medicine Development at 215.898.0578 or

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Collaborative Spirit Provides Hope to Patients and Families this Holiday Season

“At CSL Behring, we appreciate our partnership with the United Way and every year help raise money for those less fortunate in our local communities. Our company matches individual contributions dollar for dollar, and donates those funds to causes identified by employees as closest to their hearts. We’re proud to support the Abramson Cancer Center as part of our 2014-2015 United Way Campaign in recognition of our employees’ passion for supporting Health and Cancer-related initiatives.”

-Karen Etchberger, Executive Vice President, Quality and Business Services, CSL Behring

The holiday season is a time for giving back and celebrating with friends and family. And for many of our patients and families battling cancer, philanthropic support eases the financial burden that cancer brings – enabling them to enjoy the holiday’s just like everyone else. Imagine having to choose between paying for your medical bills and buying your 6 year-old child a new toy? Because of our wonderful community of supporters, including companies like CSL Behring who helped raise $40,000 through their employee giving campaign, this year our patients and families holiday season will be a little bit brighter. Philanthropic support helps provide the supportive services and resources needed to guide people throughout their cancer journeys – from navigation, social work, and special needs funds to nutrition and psychosocial counseling, support groups, and education and outreach programs.

Thank you to our many generous supporters! And for those of you looking to make a meaningful gift this holiday, consider making a gift to support our patients and families in need by clicking here, and honor a special person in your life (we’ll send them a notice of your generosity).

From our family to yours, Happy Holidays!


Merle Krimsky
Catherine and Sam Sidewater
Judy Munroe and Steve Sidewater
The Sidewater Family Foundation

And to the many employees who participated in the CSL Behring giving campaign and helped select the Abramson Cancer Center as a destination for your generosity, thank you for your thoughtful giving!

About CSL Behring

CSL Behring is a leader in the plasma protein therapeutics industry. Committed to saving lives and improving the quality of life for people with rare and serious diseases, the company manufactures and markets a range of plasma-derived and recombinant therapies worldwide. CSL Behring therapies are used around the world to treat coagulation disorders including hemophilia and von Willebrand disease, primary immune deficiencies, hereditary angioedema and inherited respiratory disease, and neurological disorders in certain markets. The company’s products are also used in cardiac surgery, organ transplantation, burn treatment and to prevent hemolytic diseases in the newborn.

CSL Behring operates one of the world’s largest plasma collection networks, CSL Plasma. CSL Behring is a global biopharmaceutical company and a member of the CSL Group of companies. The parent company, CSL Limited (ASX:CSL), is headquartered in Melbourne, Australia. For more information, visit