Join Our Volunteer Team!

At the Tri-Cities Cancer Center, our volunteers are an integral part of the services we provide. From welcoming patients to the building to serving in the Resource Center, Ralph R. Peterson Library or other areas of the Center, visitors and staff alike appreciate their friendly faces.

Volunteer opportunities available! For more information please contact Babe Nyberg at 509-737-3434 or email benitan@tccancer.org.


A Warm Fuzzy

Your Tri-Cities Cancer Center has started Pet Therapy as a respite from cancer care!

A chemo patient, Cheryl, enjoys a moment with Murphy, a charming ‘goldendoodle’.

Dogs certified for pet therapy through agencies such as Pet Partners or Love on a Leash are welcome to join us through our volunteer program.

For more information contact Benita Nyberg, Volunteer Coordinator at (509) 737-3434 or benitan@tccancer.org
or Joan Stewart, Education Coordinator at (509) 737-3450 or joans@tccancer.org.


Clinical Trials

By: Joan Stewart, RT(T), BA HCA Clinical Services Project Coordinator, TCCC

If you or a loved one are faced with a cancer diagnosis you want the best care possible whether it’s a simple skin lesion or a life-threatening brain tumor. The question for the physician is what is the best care or course of treatment for this cancer type and your overall condition? At these moments, and in today’s ever changing oncology environment, physicians rely on guidelines developed by good clinical evidence. We call this evidence-based medicine and it assures your care is based on solid research and results.

Good clinical evidence is developed by medical research that involves people like you. It might be a review of years of medical evidence gathered by a long running epidemiology study like the Nurse’s Study (www.nurseshealthstudy.org). Or it could be the result of a clinical trial created to test a promising treatment that has come from work in a lab such as that at PNNL.

Clinical trials are the process used to compare a new drug or treatment element to an existing ‘best care’ treatment guideline. For example: If drug A after surgery has shown the best results to date, what would happen if we added new Drug B to the program? Would we add Drug B before surgery or after surgery in combination with Drug A? The clinical investigators must define the trial to compare the new drug or treatment without eliminating the current best care scenario. If it offers better health, either short term or long term, without significant harm it can be added to the guidelines. Thus clinical trials evaluate the effects of a new intervention on health outcomes.

You may never be faced with the decision to participate in a clinical trial. If you should, we would like you to carefully consider the risks and possible benefits. There are always many measures in place to protect the safety of people who take part in clinical trials. Participants are closely observed for safety concerns and side effects throughout the study. Participants always have the right to withdraw their participation at any time. Should you or your loved one participate in a clinical trial?

Let’s look at the potential benefits:

  • You may help others by contributing to knowledge about new drugs, treatments or procedures.
  • You may gain access to new drugs, treatments or procedures before they are widely available.
  • You will receive regular and careful medical attention from a team of doctors and other health care professionals.

Now the possible drawbacks:

  • There may be unexpected, unpleasant and/or serious side effects from the experimental elements.
  • The new experimental element may or may not be better than the standard of care.
  • Clinical trials often require more time and attention than the standard treatment would.

Your Tri-Cities Cancer Center partners with the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance and the Fred Hutchison Cancer Research Center to offer the citizens in our community a variety of clinical trials. Please check our website for a listing of trials currently enrolling.

References:
www.cancer.gov/research/areas/clinical-trials
www.seattlecca.org/clinical-trials


Cancer Research at PNNL

By: Carl Berkowitz, TCCC Volunteer

Cancer is not a singular entity. There are thousands of different diseases we call cancer because there are thousands of different ways for a normal cell to become cancerous. So identifying the right treatment can be a complicated problem. But progress is being made on this problem at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), here in the Tri-Cities.

The early history of cancer research at PNNL
Cancer research in the Tri-Cities started with the Atomic Energy Commission’s Pacific Northwest Laboratory (PNL, predecessor to today’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory). In the 50’s and early 60’s, health physicists at PNL carried out studies with alligators, goats, and other animals to understand the relation between radiation and cancer.

These studies showed that directed radiation could kill localized clusters of cancer cells, a finding that helped in the development of the radiation therapies used today. As research at PNNL continued, improved methods were found to constrain therapeutic radiation to a small volume of cancer cells. Later, researchers learned how to use monoclonal antibodies with radioactive isotopes produced at the Hanford site’s Fast Flux reactor to attack individual cancer cells, resulting in very site specific irradiation. These early studies all pointed to the need for more efficient and faster ways to produce a variety of isotopes. Since 2012, with support of the DOE Isotope Program, scientists at PNNL and the University of Washington have worked together to develop automated techniques for the production of high quality isotopes for use in the treatment of cancer.

And more recently…
Physicians are in general agreement that the early detection of cancer is central to having a successful treatment. Today, scientists at PNNL are developing techniques to identify tumors before the appearance of any symptoms and to also understand the genetic mutations that turn healthy cells into their cancer counterparts.

The big question is, how do we identify the presence of small clusters of cancer cells within the human body? And what therapies can then be deployed before these small clusters grow? Working to solve these problems is front and center to research being done by Dr. Karin Rodland and her colleagues at the Precision Medicine Innovation Co-Laboratory, or PMedIC, where Karin is the co-director. This is a joint research collaboration of PNNL and the Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU).

“We [PNNL] are bringing new analytical technologies to the medical teams and clinical studies at OHSU. These technologies can identify thousands of proteins in the human body, including those given off by cancer cells. Using this information, we’re working to identify patterns that can be used as early warning signals for the start of tumor formation.” This work may also shed light on the important question, why do some tumors become resistant to drugs and others don’t? Such studies would have been impossible not long ago, and can only be done now using instrumentation developed over the years through support of Department of Energy’s Biological and Environmental research program.

“Cancer research is very much a multi-team, multi-agency effort” Karin said. The National Institute of Health is supporting work by Dr. Richard D. Smith and his team in the Lab’s Biological Sciences Division to quickly characterize the tens of thousands of different proteins that govern cell processes. Another PNNL team being led by Dr. Steve Wiley of the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory (EMSL) is investigating how information gets from outside of a cell to the cell nucleus where genes are turned on and off. This switching, in turn, plays a key role in determining if a cell will become cancerous or not.

Where research is taking us
Our understanding of cancer has come a long way since alligators and other animals were irradiated at Hanford. Many traditional cancer therapies are still based on statistical results from clinical studies that had characterized the cancer by where it was first found (e.g., the liver, the brain, etc.). Today, molecular markers are seeing increased use in characterizing cancers with the result that more targeted therapies are available. And yet more progress is expected as scientists and clinicians learn to use early warning signs of specific genetic mutations to guide treatments.

The research being done at PNNL in conjunction with other institutions is pointing to a future where readily available precision medicine makes use of the patient’s own biochemistry and genetics to determine the most effective therapy. New knowledge about treatments is coming fast. Recognizing that it can be difficult to follow all these developments, Karin suggests interested persons check out the peer reviewed information on the websites of the American Association for Cancer Research (www.aacr.org ), the National Cancer Institute (www.cancer.gov) and the American Cancer Society (www.cancer.org).

Where will this progress in understanding cancer take us? Karin expects that in the next five years, therapies customized to individual patients will start to be available in health centers around the country. And 10 years down the road, she sees cancer being treated as a chronic disease, like diabetes or asthma, with standard treatment plans that let patients have a life like those who are cancer free.

It’s estimated that every year we have 150,000 fewer deaths from cancer in the U.S. than occurred during an average year in the 1980s. And there’s every reason to think these numbers will continue to decrease as a result of scientific contributions being made here in the Tri-Cities.


Thank you!

Thank you Lynx Healthcare, our supporting sponsors, and our community!

We want to thank our over 1,100 community members and 80 volunteers who came together for Run for Ribbons and raised close to $60,000 to save lives! The success of Run for Ribbons would not have been possible without the incredible support of our Presenting Sponsor, Lynx Healthcare, supporting sponsors and all of our wonderful community participants.

We want to thank all of you for the difference you are making in cancer care!

“It is with the great compassion commitment and love that wonderful facilities like the Cancer Center has that is truly saving lives and changing the world – I’m grateful that Lynx is able to be apart of it through partnering and supporting the Cancer Center!” – Ian Evans, CEO Lynx Healthcare


Jannette Weber

By: Joan Stewart, RT(T), BA HCA Clinical Services Project Coordinator, TCCC

A very dear colleague in cancer care has decided to retire. Jannette Weber, the Director of Palliative Care at Chaplaincy Health has announced her retirement as of June 1st this year. While my association with Jannette has been a short eight years, her influence on me and other professionals I have worked with has been profound. She has a special skill that was forged of compassion for those who are facing end of life choices. She has taught many how to help both patient and caregiver seek quality over quantity, comfort rather than one last chemo. Physicians are taught to cure. Jannette taught them how to care enough to let their patient live, even if that meant no more treatment and the soft landing one finds in hospice.

We would like to thank her husband for finding Jannette in Newfoundland, Canada, and relocating her here. She started her nursing career at Grace General Hospital in St. John’s, Newfoundland and spent three years in various roles until she married an American serviceman named Ray Weber. It was 1981 when Jannette left her homeland to start a new life in the Tri-Cities with Ray. Now, more than 35 years later, Jannette’s impact on our health care community is immeasurable.

Jannette was one of the first oncology nurses in the Tri-Cities. She remembers well those first chemotherapies and the toll they took on the patient. Cancer care had very few options then and even fewer ways to minimize the side effects. Patients got very sick and many did not win the fight. Could the challenges faced with this type of care be the muse that moved her towards the palliative care and quality of life choices she has championed for the past 25 years?

There are few oncology nurses in the Tri-Cities that have not worked with Jannette. She mentored many a nurse and many leaned on her for guidance and growth. Jannette left her work in oncology in1993 and accepted a RN position at the Chaplaincy where she wore many hats and helped build a renowned program. After 20 years at the Chaplaincy she ventured back to oncology and in 2012 she joined the group at Trios Oncology as a Nurse Navigator. While the choices for chemo and cure were improving, the need for support when the choice for care is no longer cure never diminished. Again she offered guidance and growth like no other could have.

Jannette’s passion for palliative care and hospice was rekindled in 2014 and she returned to Chaplaincy Health. Her impact on end of life care in the Tri Cities took on a new life as she developed a comprehensive palliative care program from the ground up. Over her storied career at Chaplaincy, Jannette has been a Patient Coordinator, Director of Hospice, Community Liaison and now in her final role as Director of Palliative Care. There is no medical provider in the Tri-Cities that does not think of Jannette Weber when thinking of palliative care and hospice. Her efforts towards teaching and understanding this special type of care will continue to bear fruit long into the future.

As we all know, Jannette has been a strong contributor to the Tri-Cities health care community but Jannette’s impact has also been felt at the state level. She served on the Washington State Hospice and Palliative Care Organization for over thirteen years including one year as President. She also spent many years on the regional board for the American Cancer Society. She was one of the founding members of the Columbia Basin Oncology Nursing Society. For her ONS chapter she worked on fund-raising and coordination of continuing education events. Her sense of purpose and commitment to community will undoubtedly keep her engaged with us after retirement, just in a different fashion.

In any case, thank you Jannette for all you have done and all you have inspired us to do!


Improving Your Health

By: Lisa C.S. Rootvik, ARNP, Survivorship Nurse Practitioner

While every cancer survivor is unique, here are three things that everyone can do (even non-cancer survivors!) that are beneficial for overall health.

1) Eat a healthy diet. People have written encyclopedias worth of information on this topic and our newsletter just isn’t long enough for all of it! But here are a few tips that can improve the health of most people: eat a diet rich in whole grains, eat a wide variety of colors of fresh fruits and vegetables (eat the rainbow!), avoid processed foods as much as possible, and get at least some of your protein from nuts and legumes each day. A great resource, “14 Keys to a Healthy Diet,” can be found at berkeleywellness.com/healthy-eating/food/slideshow/14-keys-helathy-diet. If you feel you need help working on creating a healthy diet, ask one of your providers for a referral to a local registered dietician for more help.

2) Get moving. The recommended amount of moderate exercise each week is 150 minutes (30 minutes of exercise 5 days a week). This can include any activity that moderately raises your heart rate, including walking, using cardio equipment at home or at the gym, playing tag with kids/grandkids, swimming and many other activities. While we have lots of sunshine here in the Tri-Cities, we also have extreme temperatures and wind that can keep people indoors so always make sure you have a back-up activity planned that isn’t weather dependent. If you haven’t been exercising but are interested in starting, make sure to check with one of your providers to see what is safe for you and remember that it is always OK to start with shorter, easier exercises and work your way up to 150 minutes a week slowly over time. If you recently completed cancer treatment, or if you have seen me for a visit at the Survivorship Clinic, you may be eligible for our Cancer WellFit™ program which provides free personal training for cancer survivors. Call (509) 737-3420 for more information on this program or to register.

3) Quit smoking. This ideally includes vaping as well. We all know that smoking can have detrimental effects on our health and lead not only to cancer but to chronic lung diseases such as emphysema. The evidence that vaping is safer than smoking, or that vaping can help smokers stop smoking, is shaky at best. And we don’t really understand yet what the long term health effects are of vaping. We do know, however, that using e-cigarettes to quit smoking traditional cigarettes often leads to people smoking both rather than quitting traditional cigarettes and that’s not healthy at all! For those who are able to quit smoking, the wonderful news is that your risk of developing cancer decreases after you quit and continues to decrease the longer you are a non-smoker. Do you need help quitting? We have a Quit Tobacco program at TCCC that can help you quit for good call (509) 737-3427 or you can go online to doh.wa.gov/SmartQuit for additional resources.


Survivorship Provider

By: Lisa C.S. Rootvik, ARNP, Survivorship Nurse Practitioner

The Survivorship Clinic at TCCC turned ONE in March and we are growing by leaps and bounds! We had our region’s very first survivorship conference, Moving Beyond Cancer to Wellness, on April 28th. With more than 70 people in attendance, we had an amazing turn out for this all-day educational event that was co-hosted with SCCA and Fred Hutch. We had local reporter Carissa Lehmkuhl emceeing and 10 vendors on-site. Speakers included the Co-Director of the Fred Hutch Survivorship Program, the creator of our very own Survivorship Clinic (me!) and five other speakers from Seattle and Tri-Cities. Attendees enjoyed having a chance to learn from, and ask questions of, experts in the field of survivorship. They also enjoyed gift bags and raffle prizes! We hope that this will be the first of many conferences at TCCC geared toward survivors.

But who exactly is considered a survivor? The American Cancer Society defines the term “survivor” as anyone who has been diagnosed with cancer and “survivorship” as the time in a survivor’s life from the moment of cancer diagnosis until the end of life. This definition includes people who have a history of cancer as well as those who currently have cancer. It includes people who are currently undergoing treatment and those who have completed treatment. It includes people whose cancer is considered curable and those whose cancer is considered chronic or incurable. Needless to say, the definition of “survivor” is a very broad one and some people embrace it, while others never feel that the word “survivor” suits them. And that’s OK. I encourage everyone who has experienced cancer to use whatever words feel right to them.

At the Survivorship Clinic at TCCC, all survivors (using the broad definition above) are welcome. That’s right! If you’ve ever been diagnosed with cancer, you can be seen no matter what your cancer diagnosis, no matter what the stage of your cancer and no matter how long ago you were treated. If you have been, or are currently being, treated with curative intent my goal is to see you approximately 3-4 months after completing treatment and within one year from diagnosis. If you are, or have been, treated for chronic or incurable cancer, I believe the most ideal time to be seen is between treatments. If you’re interested in being seen but are not sure when would be the best time, feel free to contact the Survivorship Team and we can help you identify the ideal time.

During a Survivorship visit we review your past medical history, cancer diagnosis and cancer treatment. We review and identify side effects of treatment, discuss potential long-term complications from treatment and I educate you on how to take care of yourself going forward. The primary goal is for you to understand what you’ve been through and how to take care of yourself. The secondary goal is to make sure your entire health care team knows the same information. This includes providers who are not typically specialists in oncology (like your primary care). When you leave your visit, you will have in your hands your personalized Survivorship Care Plan which includes a concise summary of your cancer care and a Health Maintenance Schedule for you to follow with your health care team. You will also leave with many of our community’s resources for survivors at your fingertips.

I accept referrals to the Survivorship Clinic from any member of your health care team, including, but not limited to, your medical oncology, radiation oncology or primary care providers. I also accept direct patient referrals. Insurance typically covers a visit to the Survivorship Clinic, but if there is any doubt, please contact your insurance company directly.

I am so excited that the Survivorship Clinic continues to grow as we enter our second year! If you are interested in being seen for a visit or have questions about the Survivorship Clinic, please feel free to contact my nurse, Rebecca, at (509) 737-3483 or email me directly at lisarootvik@tccancer.org.

During the month of June, and all year, I extend warm wishes for happiness and the best health possible to each and every one of our community’s survivors. And if you ever need any help navigating your season of survivorship, know that I am always here to help.