SCCA Network News

SCCA Network News, Issue 7 Summer 2010

In this issue:


Director’s Message

When asked to write a brief message for this quarter’s newsletter, I found myself overwhelmed not knowing where to begin. Last year’s events certainly had us all on the edge of our seats. 2010 is already like a roller coaster ride that has no end in sight. But as I look back, despite all the uncertainties, we saw the strength in our industry and the ability to unite and adapt to the challenging environment. I think of the three A’s:

  • Appreciation – because there was still work to be done and we did it!
  • Acknowledgement – because even in times of uncertainty, achievements were made.
  • Advancement – because we can’t really stop planning and improving. Our patients needs us.

There are many to list in each of these categories, but I want to congratulate all of you for all your efforts and successes!

Although new challenges will certainly arise during the upcoming fiscal year, our relationships have been strengthened and we’re looking forward to an even better year ahead.

Warmest Regards,
Cec Zapata

New Clinical Trials Database Launched

Seattle Cancer Care Alliance has over 200 promising new treatments and clinical trials. A new web database was launched to assist referring providers in navigating through and ultimately referring their patients to the trials.

“This is a big advancement for our trial coordinators that has taken over a year by several dedicated individuals to bring to fruition,” says Dr. Marc Stewart, medical director of SCCA. “New treatments can only come from clinical trials. The more patients we can enroll in trials, the quicker we can find the best treatments for these diseases.”


To find an appropriate trial for a patient, browse through the disease sections. You can refer a patient by sending an electronic referral form (click the Refer Patient button on the trial page) or call SCCA at (800) 804-8824. If you have any questions or comments about this site, contact Tove Thompson at or (206) 288-1233.

Chemo-immunotherapy for Ovarian Cancer: Clinical trial looks at GM-CSF and Abraxane

“Ovarian cancer is the most lethal gynecologic malignancy in the United States. Obviously we need new weapons to fight this disease,” says Ron Swensen, MD, UW associate professor of Gynecologic Oncology. “We know that the immune system can attack ovarian cancer, thus leading to a much improved survival. We just don’t know how best to take advantage of this clinically. In this trial, we are trying to harness chemotherapy and the immune system to work together, rather than at cross purposes.”

To respond to a new antigenic challenge, the immune system first needs to recognize an antigen as hostile. “Paclitaxel is interesting in that it stimulates some of the same sensing molecules as bacterial cell wall, thus potentially creating the ‘hostile’ signal the immune system needs to recognize a foreign antigen,” Swensen says. “Our trial involves using a new paclitaxel preparation called Abraxane to both kill cancer cells and signal the immune system of hostile antigens. We then ramp up immunity by adding in GM-CSF.”

GM-CSF, (also known as sargramostim), is currently used to re-grow bone marrow after a stem cell transplant. “We choose GM-CSF because it stimulates the growth and maturation of dendritic cells, the major antigen presenting cells of the immune system. We have successfully used GM-CSF to stimulate immunity in previous peptide vaccine trials, so we hope it will work in this context,” Swensen says.
Dr. Swensen is hoping to enroll 30 patients to the trial. It is available in Seattle at Multicare Regionial Cancer Center and Skagit Valley Hospital.

Study #128 “A Phase II Trial of Granulocyte-Macrophage Colony Stimulating Factor (GM-CSF) with Weekly Protein Bound Paclitaxel (Abraxane) as Chemoimmunotherapy for Platinum-Refractory/Resistant Epithelial Ovarian, Primary Peritoneal and Fallopian Tube Cancer.”

Contact information:
Dr. Ron Swensen, (800) 804-8824

Physician Profile: Ron Swensen, MD

Dr. Ron Swensen is an associate professor at the University of Washington School of Medicine and director of the 4th Year Clerkship in Gynecologic Oncology. He specializes in caring for patients with complex gynecologic cancers and applying biological modifiers for treatment as well as conducting clinical trials.

He received his medical degree in 1984 from Loma Linda University, and received residency training in Obstetrics and Gynecology at Stanford University Hospital (1988) and Fellowship training in Gynecologic Oncology at Hershey Medical Center (1995).

Dr. Swensen’s latest trial is a Phase II Trial of Granulocyte-Macrophage Colony-Stimulating Factor (GM-CSF) with Weekly Protein-bound Paclitaxel (Abraxane™) as Chemo-immunotherapy for Relapsed, Platinum-Resistant Epithelial Ovarian Cancer.

When he isn’t teaching or caring for patients, Dr. Swensen enjoys his family and the, “awesome outdoor environment of Western Washington.”

New Linear Accelerator at SCCA

SCCA has a new linear accelerator that replaces an older machine for providing more targeted radiation therapy to treat solid tumors. The $2.5 million, Swedish-made Elekta Infinity, in addition to the microlead collimator system, will be used for extracranial stereotactic radiosurgery on tumors that are in critical anatomic locations or have received prior radiation. Volumetric modulated arc therapy (VMAT), a method of radiation treatment delivery, allows for the radiation dose intensity to be varied through the body by delivering the desired dose to the tumor with the potential for greater sparing of nearby normal tissue. Radiation also is delivered more quickly in a continual movement of gantry, collimator, and multi-leaf collimation.

New Feature on U-Link

On June 1, a new feature was added to U-Link for 24/7 “urgent” patient addition requests. A U-Link provider can now go to the online form in their U-Link account and request to have a patient added to their account urgently. A Health Information Management staff person will be paged and they will handle this request within one hour.

To access this feature, go to the “Add/Remove Patient” screen, fill in the information as usual, and then put a check mark in the urgent request box. Please include a contact phone number where you can be notified when the patient is added. We would prefer that you only use this feature for urgent requests that can’t wait until the next business day. During regular business hours, Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., patients are added within 1 to 2 hours. In the past, evening and weekend coverage was not available. If you experience any difficulties, contact Autumn Mumaw, oncology physician liaison at or (206) 598-5897.

Survivorship Program, Good for Patients

Each year, more people benefit from treatments for cancer. Approximately 66 percent of adult cancer patients and 80 percent of childhood cancer patients are expected to live at least five years after diagnosis. In 2006, an estimated 11.4 million cancer survivors lived in the United States, which is expected to increase to nearly 20 million by 2020.

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center’s Long-term Follow-Up Program for survivors of bone marrow transplantation has been in place for more than 30 years – longer than any other in the world. In recognition of the Center’s strong history of cancer research, specialized oncology programs, and long-term care of bone marrow transplant patients, the LIVESTRONG Foundation awarded a grant to the Hutchinson Center to create the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center Survivorship Program; part of the LIVESTRONG Survivorship Center of Excellence Network. This program is one of only eight LIVESTRONG Survivorship Centers in the nation and the only one in the Pacific Northwest.

The Survivorship Program is open to all cancer survivors, regardless of where they received their original treatment. The program provides clinical care and patient education to cancer survivors through Seattle Cancer Care Alliance and includes:

  • A thorough screening and health evaluation
  • A Treatment Summary (lists therapy and medical information related to the patient’s diagnosis and any potential long-term problems)
  • A Survivorship Care Plan (test results, support services, and dates of treatment)
  • A copy of the Treatment Summary and the Survivorship Care Plan are also sent to the patient’s medical oncologist and primary care provider.

Follow-up care may consist of recommended health and wellness screenings, monitoring for long-term effects of treatment, therapy for possible psychological effects, recommended lifestyle changes, and a list of local resources.

“We serve as a bridge from the oncologist to the primary care physician,” says K. Scott Baker, MD, director of the FHCRC Survivorship Program. “Our specialized knowledge of the short- and long-term concerns from having cancer allows us to red-flag any possible issues that may arise down the road. As a result we can let primary care physicians know what to look and test for in the future.”

The Survivorship Program hosts educational events for survivors and medical educational events for primary care physicians, mid-level providers, and ancillary health-care professionals involved in management of cancer survivors so they have the latest information surrounding the management of cancer survivorship issues.
This program offers current survivors the opportunity to shape a path to wellness for their own health, and works to benefit future survivors though research.

Providence Alaska Medical Center is a designated affiliate site of the Fred Hutchison Cancer Research Center Survivorship Program. SCCA Network members interested in developing survivorship programs at their facilities will receive support from SCCA’s program. We will assist in tailoring individual programs to the needs of each network site.

For more information on the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center Survivorship Program or to arrange an appointment, call (866) 543-4272, email, or visit

Network Member Profile: Skagit Valley Hospital Regional Cancer Care Center

Skagit Valley Hospital Regional Cancer Care Center has been an SCCA Network Member since 2005. They provide comprehensive cancer care to the Northwest Washington region supported by five medical oncologists and two radiation oncologists.

Their 20,000 square-foot center is located in Mount Vernon and features medical oncology and radiation oncology. A third linear accelerator, state-of-the-art Elekta Axesse, was added in 2009 to expand treatment options to include stereotactic radiosurgery and radiation therapy in a singular rotational movement, reducing treatment time and improving accuracy. They also provide accupuncture and massage.

Michal Anne Whiton, MD, radiation oncologist, will join the practice this summer after completing her residency at Thomas Jefferson University.

The Skagit Valley Hospital Regional Cancer Care Center at Arlington is located within the new expansion of Cascade Valley Hospital serving patients of north Snohomish County.

Their Breast Institute opened in 2010 as a multidisciplinary program and includes medical oncologists, radiologists, pathologists, surgeons, and a patient navigator who assists newly diagnosed breast cancer patients in gaining quick access to specialists and treatment planning.

Physician Profile: David Kantorowitz, MD, PhD

Dr. David Kantorowitz is the medical director of Radiation Oncology at Skagit Valley Hospital Regional Cancer Care Center.

Board certified in Radiation Oncology, he has practiced at Skagit Valley Hospital Regional Cancer Care Center since 2006, when the expanded, comprehensive facility opened.

“Our mission today and every day is to treat our patients as we would wish to be treated; technical sophistication combined with judgment and caring,” he said.
Most recently, Dr. Kantorowitz, in partnership with neurosurgeon Dr. Barry Landau, started providing intracranial radiosurgical procedures using the Elekta Axesse linear accelerator, one of just four such systems in the U.S.

Dr. Kantorowitz received a Master’s degree and PhD in Clinical Psychology at Rutgers University in 1974 and 1976 respectively. He received his MD at the University of California at San Francisco in 1983, followed by an internship at Virginia Mason Hospital in Seattle in 1984 and residency in Radiation Oncology at University of Rochester Cancer Center in 1987. He then practiced and did research as an assistant professor of Radiation Oncology at the University of Colorado Health Science Center until joining North Puget Oncology in 1989.

Olympic Medical Cancer Center

World-class cancer care is available on the North Olympic Peninsula. Olympic Medical Cancer Center provides the latest cancer technologies and treatment options, including: 

  • Radiation oncology, including external beam therapy and intensity modulated radiation therapy (IMRT) 
  • Medical oncology 
  • Hematology 
  • General oncologic surgery at Olympic Memorial Hospital 
  • On-site, Class-A pharmacy 
  • PET/CT 
  • Support services, including nutrition, physical therapy, social services, and home health 
  • Access to clinical trials 
  • Resource library with access to reference and support information 
  • Patient Navigator to personally assist patients undergoing cancer treatment

Olympic Medical Cancer Center utilizes the latest technologies to ensure its patients receive the best possible cancer treatment available. Olympic Medical’s experienced staff provides compassionate care in a comforting environment, the Thomas Family Cancer Center, conveniently located in Sequim. Olympic Medical Cancer Center was the SCCA’s first network member, joining in 2003.

Rena Zimmerman, MD, an experienced radiation oncologist, recently joined the medical team in Sequim.

“We are very pleased to have Dr. Zimmerman join the medical staff in our community,” says Pamela Hawney, assistant administrator of specialty services at OMC.

In August, OMC welcomes two more providers to the team: Medical Oncologist Erin Nelli, DO and Radiation Oncologist Michael Shevach, MD.

Physician Profile: Rena Zimmerman, MD

Radiation Oncologist, Dr. Rena Zimmerman, from Olympic Medical Cancer Center, has practiced radiation oncology for more than 20 years. She is board certified by the American Board of Radiology and is a member of the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology. Dr. Zimmerman attended medical school at Northeastern Ohio University’s College of Medicine. She completed her internship at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Chicago and her residency training at University Hospitals of Cleveland.

Dr. Zimmerman recently completed the Program in Integrative Medicine from the University of Arizona, Tucson. She is interested in the use of integrative medicine in the management of patients receiving radiation therapy and has a particular interest in the treatment of breast cancer.

“Radiation therapy is an extremely satisfying area of medicine,” Zimmerman says. “Our ability to treat patients has improved dramatically because of technological advances.”

Network Member Profile: Cascade Cancer Center

Cascade Cancer Center focuses on specialty care in medical oncology and hematology, and offers routine infusion services. They are the primary oncology provider for Evergreen Healthcare, a health-care system based at Evergreen Hospital Medical Center in Kirkland, Washington, which is a regional community hospital that serves the greater Eastside and surrounding areas. Cascade has two locations, one in Kirkland and nearby Bothell.

Cascade’s medical oncologists participate in the Evergreen Tumor Board where individual cases are collectively reviewed by radiologists, pathologists, surgeons, radiation oncologists, and medical oncologists. The physicians then collaborate with a wide array of medical providers on the Eastside, as well as throughout the greater Seattle area to optimize the care of each patient.

Cascade Cancer Center has been a member of the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA) Network of health-care providers since 2007.

Physician Profile: Michele Frank, MD

Dr. Michele Frank is a hematologist who specializes in treating benign conditions such as venous thrombosis, idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura, and anemias, as well as malignant conditions such as lymphoma, leukemia, and multiple myeloma.
“I’m not focused on one particular disease,” she says. “I work closely with Seattle Cancer Care Alliance physicians in that I refer patients for transplant and manage them post transplant.”

Dr. Frank received her medical degree from the University of Pittsburgh where she also completed a residency in Internal Medicine and served as chief medical resident.
In 2000, Dr. Frank completed a three-year fellowship in Hematology at the University of Washington. She joined Cascade Cancer Center in 2004.

Outside of work she is busy with her two sons, volunteering at their school, and attending lots of soccer games, track meets, and piano recitals. They ski together in the winter and enjoy biking in the summer.


Network in the Community

Multicare Regional Cancer Care recently opened its brand new clinic building in the new Milgard Pavillion at MultiCare Tacoma General Hospital. Expanded to nearly three times the size of their previous cancer center, they now have capacity for over 40 semi-private and private infusion pods of six that will accommodate individual preferences for social interaction or privacy. Thirty-three chairs are for chemotherapy, each with a personal entertainment system with television, radio, and internet access.The ribbon cutting ceremony was attended by Multicare leadership and members of the community.

SCCA’s Julie Gralow, MD, was pleased to be the featured speaker at the Skagit Valley Hospital Women’s Health Luncheon on February 11, 2010. Dr. Gralow is one of the nation’s leading researchers and experts on breast cancer treatment and is director
of SCCA’s Breast Medical Oncology department. She is also a professor in the oncology division of the University of Washington School of Medicine. In her presentation, Dr. Gralow provided information about the latest news in the detection, prevention, and treatment of breast cancer. Exercise has long been the focus of Dr. Gralow’s mission so she shared information about the importance of exercise in the treatment of breast cancer as well.