Olivia Newton-John helps Moffitt raise $100,000+ for cancer research at 13th annual Sarasota Women’s Cancer Awareness Luncheon
SARASOTA—When Olivia Newton-John was asked during a question-and-answer session at the 13th annual Sarasota Women’s Cancer Awareness Luncheon if she would sing for the nearly 600 guests who paid $125 each to attend, she said yes – with one condition.
Moffitt’s International Plaza Venue
Last July, the Tampa-based H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute opened an International Plaza clinic near the Tampa International Airport to better serve patients and their families living south of the Tampa Bay area.
Moffitt designed and equipped the outpatient center with the latest technology to enhance the patient experience through conveniences such as a new centralized electronic self-registration process. The $22 million renovation project more than tripled the space of Moffitt’s previous facility at Tampa General Hospital, from 13,000 to 50,000 square feet. The staff increased in size from 35 to 80, with a total capacity employment of nearly 200 by 2016.
In addition to imaging services that include 4D PET/CT images, MRI scans and chest X-rays, Moffitt recently opened a women’s mammography and ultrasound suite at the International Plaza location, which houses a revolutionary mammography technology MicroDose, which identifies cancer using half the radiation dose of a regular mammogram.
“We really needed the room to be able to grow and expand,” said Nancy Ziel, director of satellite operations for Moffitt. “We wanted to maintain our presence in the South Tampa area, but also wanted to be more accessible to Pinellas County, southern Hillsborough County and even southern Pasco County, where residents get right on the Veterans Expressway and come down to the new center.”
“For $10,000 for Moffitt, I’ll sing a few bars,” teased the Australian-born songstress and breast cancer survivor who served as event keynote speaker.
To her surprise, Tom Koski wrote a check on the spot to hear Newton-John sing her signature song, “I Honestly Love You.”
The March 19 event at The Ritz-Carlton in Sarasota raised approximately $134,000 for breast and gynecologic cancer research at Moffitt Cancer Center as attendees learned from Moffitt experts about the most advanced treatment, screening and early detection options for cancer patients, such as personalized therapies, lower-dose mammograms and HPV vaccinations. Net proceeds also included sales of designer and costume jewelry, and stunning orchids, a traditional “boutique” at the luncheon.
Newton-John, who serves on Moffitt’s National Board of Advisors, relayed her personal cancer journey that began in 1992. Referring to herself as a “thriver,” and not simply a survivor, she shared stories about different points of her career, including her continuing recording and touring ventures. She counts Moffitt founder H. Lee Moffitt as a friend and mentor, who encouraged her to open a cancer hospital and wellness center in her native homeland.
“I believe that in the future, cancer will be a thing of the past,” Newton-John told a captive audience. “We’re very close to that.”
The event also included panel discussions, moderated by Thomas Sellers, PhD, MPH, director of Moffitt Research Institute and executive vice president, who will take over as center director in July.
Panelist Patricia L. Judson, MD, the only gynecologic oncologist in Tampa, shared that women who are diagnosed with ovarian cancer are generally found to have advanced stage disease and often die from the “silent” cancer, and stressed the urgency of new research to develop a screening test for the disease. She also discussed the safety and efficacy of the HPV vaccine, which is often the precursor to cervical cancer, and highlighted the work of fellow research leader Anna Giuliano, MD, who chairs the department of cancer epidemiology at H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center, on vaccinating males.
Panelist Christopher I. Flowers, MD, assistant member of diagnostic imaging and director of Moffitt’s Breast Imaging Program, discussed the availability of new, advanced mammography equipment at Moffitt’s new facility near International Plaza, pointing out that the MicroDose mammography provides better quality images at half the radiation dose. He also discussed the I_SPY2 trial, which pairs genetic markers and various medications to eventually develop more individualized treatment. Moffitt has been accepted to participate and will soon be the only center in the South to offer this neo-adjuvant trial.
Panelist Nazanin Khakpour, MD, a surgical oncologist and associate member of the breast program, spoke about whether all patients with Ductal Carcinoma In Situ (DCIS) who undergo lumpectomy actually need radiation therapy, and what can be done to assess risk and personalize treatment so that women receive less radiation and fewer surgeries.
“The luncheon gets bigger and better each year,” said Moffitt Foundation board member and event co-chairwoman Eileen Curd. “It’s so exciting to know that proceeds from the luncheon will bring us one step closer to a cure for this disease that has touched all of our lives.”