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Unlocking The Mysteries of Cancer and The Immune System


















iIt may seem as if bacterial infections, such as pneumonia, would have little to do with melanoma or breast cancer. But Peter A. Sieling, PhD, a cellular immunologist, has spent his career making a connection between the two seemingly disparate fields. Now, he appears to be in just the right place at the right time, as scientific evidence mounts suggesting the body’s own natural system for fighting infections may be the key to preventing or treating some types of cancers.

The role of the immune system is to recognize and eliminate challenges from harmful substances, like germs, and cancerous cells. “The immune system in relationship to cancer has similar but also different questions,” he says. “The types of cells in our body that fight against tumors—the immune cells— are almost identical to the cells that fight microbial infections.”

Dr. Sieling earned his PhD studying bacterial infections and went on to investigate how the immune system responds to bacterial infections, an area he has … Read More »

Former Institute Surgical Oncology Fellow Awarded NCI Grant

A former surgical oncology fellow at the John Wayne Cancer Institute, Dr. Partha Ray, has received a $1 million Small Business Technology Transfer grant from the National Cancer Institute to advance research he began at the Institute on a diagnostic test for a deadly form of breast cancer.

Dr. Ray, a surgical oncologist with the Carle Cancer Center/Mills Breast Cancer Institute in Urbana, Illinois, participated in a surgical oncology fellowship at the Institute from 2008 to 2010. Under the tutelage of Donald L. Morton, MD, Dr. Ray began work on a molecular diagnostic test to identify a gene, dubbed FOXC1, which is a biomarker for basal-like breast cancer.

This cancer is a form of triple-negative breast cancer, a dangerous sub-type of the disease. But even among cases of triple negative breast cancer, the basal-like form is the most worrisome. These cancers tend to occur more frequently in younger women, African- American women … Read More »

Turning Yoga’s Mystique Toward Breast Cancer

Research from around the world in breast cancer patients has shown that yoga may be able to help improve physical functioning, sleep and overall quality of life while reducing fatigue, stress and inflammation. With benefits like that, it’s no wonder yoga is increasingly embraced by cancer patients

A new weekly yoga class offered by the Margie Petersen Breast Center at Providence Saint John’s Health Center is aimed at meeting the demand for yoga among patients and acknowledges growing scientific support for its value. The hour-long classes, which began in early March, are free to breast cancer patients undergoing treatment at the center. The classes are taught by certified yoga instructor and breast cancer survivor Kamla Subramanian, who leads participants through gentle, therapeutic exercises adjusted for each person’s level.

Yoga classes are just one example of how cancer treatments have evolved dramatically over the years.

“Twenty years ago, when a woman was diagnosed with breast cancer, the surgeon cut the tumor out and sent the patient off to the oncologist,” says Maureen A. Chung, MD, PhD, medical director of … Read More »

Multi-Center Melanoma Study Published in the New England Journal of Medicine



In the largest study of its kind, researchers have confirmed that a strategy to assess the spread of melanoma—pioneered by scientists at the John Wayne Cancer Institute—saves lives and spares some patients from troubling surgical side effects.

The study, called the Multicenter Selective Lymphadenectomy Trial (MSLT-I), was led by the late Donald L. Morton, MD, and co-authored by his colleagues at the Institute and around the world, including Mark B. Faries, MD, director of the Donald L. Morton, MD, Melanoma Research Program at the John Wayne Cancer Institute. The study validated the use of sentinel node biopsy, the revolutionary procedure developed by Dr. Morton more than 30 years ago.

Dr. Morton suggested that the spread of melanoma could be determined by examining the lymph node closest to the original tumor. Traditionally, doctors removed all of the lymph nodes in the area of the primary tumor to thwart the spread of cancer. However, this extensive surgery increases … Read More »

Does Bacteria Play a Role in Breast Cancer?

A surprising finding by Delphine J. Lee, MD, PhD, about the role of bacteria in influencing breast cancer was published recently in the journal PLOS ONE. The paper will help advance the growing field of cancer immunology, which explores the role of infections and immune system response in cancer.

Some bacteria, such as the human papilloma virus, can cause cancer. HPV is a major cause of cervical cancer. But bacteria canbe beneficial too. That’s the focus of the study by Dr. Lee, director of the department of translational immunology and the Dirks/Dougherty Laboratory for Cancer Research at the John Wayne Cancer Institute.

Dr. Lee found evidence that bacteria are more prevalent in healthy breast tissue compared to tissue from a cancerous breast tumor. Moreover, the study showed that the fewer bacteria present in breast tumor tissue, the greater the odds that the patient had advanced disease. So measuring the amount of bacteria could provide information on diagnosing and staging breast cancer.

It’s not surprising that … Read More »

Making Strides in Therapeutic Immunology

A novel cancer therapy that’s under development for metastatic melanoma may also benefit patients with a particularly aggressive type of breast cancer.

The therapy is an individualized treatment using immune cells taken from a patient’s tumor. The tumor sample is placed in a culture, and researchers extract cancer-fighting white blood cells called tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes—or TILs. Billions of copies of these cells are manufactured and then injected back into the patient.

Clinical trials of the therapy, called adoptive cell therapy with autologous TILs, are showing promising results in patients with metastatic melanoma, according to Mark B. Faries, MD, director of the Donald L. Morton, MD, Melanoma Research Program and therapeutic immunology, who has led the research.

Melanoma that has spread from the original tumor to other parts of the body is especially difficult to treat, with five-year survival rates of less than 6%. The problem is that metastatic melanoma is notoriously resistant to chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Some newer medications, … Read More »

Meeting the Challenges of Cancer

Cancer research requires dedication, perseverance and hope—all qualities that defined the late Donald L. Morton, MD, co-founder of the John Wayne Cancer Institute. In this issue of Innovations, we honor his legacy and celebrate his accomplishments with great pride. Dr. Morton laid the groundwork for what is now a world-class Institute with faculty who are pioneers in several of the most promising and innovative areas of research such as molecular oncology, immunotherapy and minimally invasive surgical techniques.

My family welcomed the opportunity to use my father’s name to honor his battle against the disease and promote world-class cancer research. Today, the Institute is a testament to that vision. The emphasis on translational medicine means our researchers are working hard to move the discoveries they make in the laboratories to the bedsides of patients as quickly as possible.

Research also requires the resolve and … Read More »

The Path Ahead






“There is so much Dr. Morton imparted to me  Dr. Mark Faries says. “One important thing was his ability to bring out the best in other people.” and everyone else during his career, “Dr. Faries is spearheading promising research on “adoptive immunotherapy.” The approach is to develop personalized cancer treatments using immune cells taken from a patient’s tumor. The tissue sample is incubated in special cultures that enhance the growth of cancer-fighting white blood cells.

Scientists identify and select the cells that kill the malignant tumors—called tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs)—and then make billions of copies of those cells, which are injected back into the patient. The treatment revs up the patient’s immune system to fight the cancer. Such cutting-edge work is typically only possible in major cancer research centers like the John Wayne Cancer Institute, which is a recognized leader in immunotherapy.

Dr. Faries is also advancing one of the Institute’s major recent accomplishments: the publication of the results of … Read More »

Saving the Life of Nobel Laureate Physicist Dr. Richard Feynman

     Dr. Donald L. Morton saved many lives over the course of his long career, and each case was as important as the next. However, one operation in particular led to a significant moment in history.

Dr. Richard Feynman, the preeminent Caltech theoretical physicist who won the Nobel Prize in physics in 1965, was diagnosed with cancer in 1979. A few years later, tests showed the cancer, a sarcoma, had spread around his intestines. He opted for a high-risk surgery with Dr. Morton.

Peter Jones, MD, associate professor at the John Wayne Cancer Institute and a former fellow under Dr. Morton, was at Dr. Morton’s side the day they operated on Dr. Feynman in 1981. “The tumor was so large, many surgeons would have declined to operate,” says Dr. Jones. “And providing chemotherapy alone would have likely extended Dr. Feynman’s life by only a few months.”

“Dr. Morton agreed to perform the operation knowing it was Dr. Feynman’s only … Read More »

Patients and Friends Recall an Approachable Genius

When first introduced to Dr. Morton, Melinda Wayne Muñoz says she was prepared to meet a different type ofmman. His reputation as an academician, researcher and surgeon had preceded that meeting. But the man she met exuded great humility and sincerity.

“His compassion for his patients alongside his passion for medicine were very impressive,” says Muñoz, the daughter of John Wayne. She serves on the John Wayne Cancer Institute Auxiliary board of directors.

Dr. Morton was unusual among researchers of his stature because he made a point of getting out of the lab to spend time with patients. “He said, ‘We don’t cure rats. We cure human beings,’” she recalls.

Dr. Morton was able to explain cancer research to a wide variety of audiences, says Ethan Wayne, the youngest son of John Wayne. Ethan is chief executive officer of the John Wayne Cancer Foundation in Newport Beach and president of John Wayne Enterprises.

When … Read More »

#SunSafe4Schwinn Release and License For Video By And/Or Including Minors

Release and License For Video By And/Or Including Minors

For good and valuable consideration that I acknowledge having received, including without limitation acceptance of a video into the Sun Safe 4 Schwinn contest (the “Contest Video”), I hereby grant the following rights and permissions to the John Wayne Cancer Foundation and its licensees, assignees, and other successors-in-interest (collectively, “JWCF”), which hereby has the following privacy, publicity, and intellectual property rights in and to my or my child’s or ward’s activities related to the Contest Video.

Performance, Privacy, and Publicity Rights:  JWCF has the absolute right and permission to use, reuse, publish, and republish the Contest Video, until such time as I may revoke such right and permission only in writing by certified mail to:


I acknowledge that the Contest Video includes my … Read More »

#SunSafe4Schwinn Official Contest Rules

John Wayne Cancer Foundation – Skin Cancer Education
Sun Safe 4 Schwinn Summer 2014 Video Contest


The campaign runs from June 1st, 2014 to September 1st 2014 – 11:59pmpst.

Submission takes place from June 1st, 2014-August 24, 2014 – 11:59pmpst.

Voting takes place from August 25th, 2014-September 1st, 2014 -11:5pmpst.


One top regional winner per/1,000 junior lifeguards will be selected from eligible participants along with the 10 top-ranked video contributions within the California state junior lifeguard programs and 10 top-ranked public video contributions as determined by public voting.

The winner will be notified by e-mail on or around September 2nd, 2014.  If winner cannot be located or does not respond to within seven (7) days, prize will automatically be forfeited and an alternate winner may be selected at sponsor’s sole discretion. All of the winners will be announced after September 2nd, 2014 when … Read More »

Changing How Cancer is Detected and Treated


It is an exciting time for us at the John Wayne Cancer Institute. It was recently announced that Providence Health & Services, Southern California, and SCL Health System reached a definitive agreement for Providence to assume sponsorship of Saint John’s Health Center and the John Wayne Cancer Institute. We are excited about this new relationship and the opportunities and partnerships it brings.

Even with this change in sponsorship, some things will never change at the Institute, such as our continued commitment to staying at the forefront of cancer research. Our researchers are changing the way cancer is detected, diagnosed and treated around the world. For example, Fredrick Singer, MD, is currently studying the link between vitamin D levels and survival of patients with melanoma. Or one can look at the amazing work being done by Dave S.B. Hoon, PhD, professor and chief of molecular oncology, and distinguished professor of surgery Donald L. Morton, MD, who are utilizing the Institute’s gene sequencer to learn more about the influence genes have on cancer and how to use … Read More »

In Memoriam: Davida Lettiere






The Associates for Breast and Prostate Cancer Studies (ABCs) has long supported efforts to improve the diagnosis and treatment of breast and prostate cancer. Its long partnership with the John Wayne Cancer Institute was fostered by the leadership of Davida Lettiere who passed away in September.

“Davida’s life was never about herself,” says ABCs president Gloria Gebbia. “It was always about others. Volunteering gave her a great sense of satisfaction in helping others.”

Davida was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, the oldest of three children, but lived much of her adult life in Los Angeles. She was married for 53 years to husband Donald and had two children: David and Debi. She was also the proud grandmother of four.

With a strong desire to serve others, she helped found the ABCs and immersed herself in the details of volunteer work, planning … Read More »

A Family’s Commitment

When my father was diagnosed with cancer, it changed my world as well as each member of our family. Despite the best care possible, cancer took my father’s life when he still had dreams to fulfill and so much to give. But through our family’s tragedy, we resolved to support cancer research in his name.

Together with the Institute’s many supporters, we have found ways to help fight cancer. We take enormous pride in the evolution of the Institute. Our faculty members are on the leading edge of oncology research, evidenced by the scores of scientific papers they author each year. They are pioneers in their respective fields and participate in several of the largest and most authoritative research collaborations in the world.

It’s no surprise then that the Institute attracts top surgical oncology and research fellows. These individuals are the best … Read More »

Enter to Win Tickets to the John Wayne Film Festival

1. NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED. The Sweepstakes (“Sweepstakes”) begins at 12:00 AM (PST) on February 27, 2014 and ends at 11:59pm (PST) on April 10, 2014 (the “Promotion Period”). Enter online at


John Wayne Cancer Foundation 210 62nd Street Newport Beach, CA.

The Sweepstakes is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook. By entering, you understand that you are providing your information to the Sponsors and not Facebook. Any questions, comments or complaints regarding the Sweepstakes must be directed to the Sponsors, and not to Facebook.

3. ELIGIBILITY. Employees, officers and directors of the Sponsors, its affiliates, subsidiaries, agencies (advertising, promotional, fulfillment and marketing), their immediate families (parent, child, sibling & spouse) and persons living in the same households as such individuals (whether related or not) are not eligible to … Read More »

Our Highlights from 2013

It was a busy year for all of us in 2013! We’re sharing a selection of our greatest achievements in 2013, from life-changing discoveries at the John Wayne Cancer Institute to programs and support recognized globally. None of this would be possible without the generosity of our supporters. Help John Wayne fight cancer in 2014. Visit us online to saddle up.


• It was an exciting year with Into the Wild OC Trail Runs! In 2013, Into the Wild donated $1 per runner to the John Wayne Cancer Foundation. Into the Wild will continue to support the Foundation with the same program in 2014.
• Millions of people watched in person and on television as the John Wayne Cancer Foundation Spirit of the West Riders, who have been riding in the Tournament of Roses (Rose Parade) for Team Duke since 1999, horsebacked … Read More »

Gene Sequencing’s Time Has Come

Dave S.B. Hoon, PhD, at John Wayne Cancer Institute uses molecular techniques to decipher cancer’s mysteries.

To understand the progress witnessed in the research labs at the John Wayne Cancer Institute over the past three decades, it’s helpful to look at how people viewed cancer back then.

In the early 1990s, many medical researchers were still searching for a single cure for the disease. Cancer deaths in the United States were at their highest rates ever, and few genes linked to a specific cancer type had been identified. Against this backdrop, Dave S.B. Hoon, PhD, chief of scientific intelligence at the John Wayne Cancer Institute, joined his good friend Donald L. Morton, MD, at the Institute and launched research to explore the fundamental mysteries surrounding cancer, such as why the disease develops in some people and not others and why some treatments … Read More »

Vitamin D: What Role Does it Play in Melanoma?

Research at the John Wayne Cancer Institute has discovered a possible paradox involving Vitamin D, the so-called “sunshine” vitamin, and skin cancer.

Frederick Singer, MD, director of the endocrinology and bone disease program at the John Wayne Cancer Institute, is collaborating with Donald L. Morton, MD, to study an intriguing link between vitamin D levels and survival in patients with melanoma.

Vitamin D has received a lot of scrutiny in recent years. Studies show many Americans are deficient in the nutrient—perhaps because they are being more careful about sun exposure or are using sunscreen to prevent skin cancer. Vitamin D is naturally manufactured by the body from sun exposure. That’s why it’s important to get at least some sun exposure or take vitamin D supplements.

While vitamin D is known for its importance in bone health, studies over the past decade suggest the … Read More »

A Dynamic Duo Sparked By Friendship

When Jackie Banchik and Diane Feldman were introduced 40 years ago, they would never have guessed that the meeting would result in an enduring friendship and a partnership that would leave a mark on the John Wayne Cancer Institute.

They were young women living in Los Angeles, pursuing careers, caring for their families and still finding time to do volunteer work. Jackie, born in Chicago and raised in LA, worked as an occupational therapist. Diane was an elementary school teacher in Chicago where she was born and raised, and she became an interior designer after moving to Los Angeles.

They met in the early 1970s at a charity event and became friends. Through the challenges and joys of working and raising children, the two women shared experiences, supported each other and cherished their friendship.

When Diane’s father was diagnosed with cancer, Sandy Cohen, … Read More »

The MAN Behind the Name

John Wayne’s family carries out his greatest wish.

Melinda Wayne Muñoz is certain that her father, John Wayne, would be proud of the cancer breakthroughs accomplished in his name.

“I think he’d be thrilled that he gave his name to such a fine Institute.”

When he was asked to lend his name to a cancer clinic, the actor saw an opportunity to help others. The family of the actor and cancer activist didn’t walk away once the sign was in place, either. Each generation of Waynes is heavily involved with and committed to fighting cancer in their father’s name. Each person contributes however they can, says Melinda, from being part of a board to participating in a 5K run. Melinda, 72, and a resident of Orange County, serves on the John Wayne Cancer Institute Auxiliary’s board of directors.

She’s not worried about the involvement … Read More »

Accelerating Research at the Molecular Level

John Wayne Cancer Institute researchers embrace a new cell-sorting machine.

Translational medicine. That’s the term used for moving knowledge attained in research laboratories to patients’ bedsides as rapidly as possible. The potential to turn pioneering therapies into life-saving treatments is on full display at the John Wayne Cancer Institute Molecular Oncology Laboratory. Researchers are studying cancer at its most basic level: the molecules that cause tumors to behave in specific ways.

The research is augmented by a technology called fluorescenceactivated cell scanning (FACS). A machine separates cells that are phenotypically different from each other. It identifies how many cells have expressed key proteins and how much these proteins have been expressed— details that help unravel the mysteries of cancer. JWCI will soon replace its current 11-year-old cell-sorting machine with a new FACS machine.

The upgrade in technology will help the Institute recruit top … Read More »

Reaching the Crucial Tipping Point in Breast Cancer Research

Maureen Chung, MD, PhD, joined John Wayne Cancer Institute last year as director of the Margie and Robert E. Petersen Breast Cancer Research Program. She was previously an associate professor in the department of surgery at Brown Medical School in Providence, Rhode Island. After 10 months on the job in Santa Monica, she shares her vision of breast cancer research.

John Wayne Cancer Institute:  What brought you to the John Wayne Cancer Institute at Saint John’s?
Dr. Maureen Chung: “This is a rare opportunity for a surgeon who is also interested in research. One of the strengths of John Wayne is its involvement in translational research—research that is going to be applied to patients. We see a problem in the clinic, we take it back to the lab and try to find a solution. Even though breast cancer is a common problem, … Read More »

Investing In Our Future – Patrick Wayne

“My family has been proud to be a part of the John Wayne Cancer Institute for more than three decades. I continue to be amazed by the talented scientists who work within its walls to demystify the complex disease of cancer and improve the lives of cancer patients worldwide.

Throughout the Institute, researchers are pursuing novel ideas that are transforming the way we think about cancer treatment. From studies that identify blood-based biomarkers for the early detection of colon cancer to therapies that enlist a patient’s immune system to fight advanced skin cancer, our dynamic faculty works at the cutting edge of science. Our future is incredibly bright.

The achievements of the faculty at the John Wayne Cancer Institute are even more impressive because they have been accomplished without the scope of resources available at many larger institutions. It’s more difficult than … Read More »

Surgical Oncology Fellowship Program at John Wayne Cancer Institute Receives Prestigious Accreditation

Cancer surgery is an increasingly sophisticated specialty. But few institutions train surgeons in this fine art better than John Wayne Cancer Institute.

In March, the Institute became one of only a handful of programs in the United States—and one of only two in California—to be accredited for complex surgical oncology as designated by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME). The ACGME oversees all training programs that may result in board certification, and only graduates of such programs are eligible to take board examinations.

At JWCI, specialty training was pioneered by educators such as Donald Morton, MD, even before fellowship programs existed. When the Society of Surgical Oncology standardized a system of evaluation for fellowship programs, the program at JWCI was one of the first to be accredited. Specialized training in surgical oncology is a new board certification of the ACGME.

JWCI … Read More »

With New Accreditation, A Legacy Continues

“At the John Wayne Cancer Institute, we have long taken great pride in our programs to teach, train and inspire the next generation of physicians and researchers. That practice has served our community and country well, producing hundreds of talented individuals who are now leaders in oncology with the goal of saving their patients’ lives and preserving their quality of life.

Our commitment to teaching was acknowledged in March by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME), which granted our fellowship program accreditation for complex surgical oncology. Our program is one of the first in the country to receive this distinction and is only one of 13 programs currently approved in the United States. Graduating fellows will therefore be among the first surgeons ever to become board- certified in surgical oncology.

The recognition by the ACGME is a tribute to the … Read More »