City of Hope Harmonizes Research, Medical Care to Create Melody That Breathes New Life into Cancer, Diabetes Patients

DUARTE, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–The scientific and medical miracles that occur every day at City of Hope
are a result of the world-leading comprehensive cancer center’s ability
to weave seemingly disparate teams into a healing “melody” that
accompanies patients on their journey toward recovery. Seven of the
institution’s patients will celebrate their second chance at life by
riding City of Hope’s 2019 float during the 130th Rose Parade®
presented by Honda on New Year’s Day.

Befitting the 2019 Rose Parade theme, “The Melody of Life,” City of Hope
has named its 47th float “Harmony
of Hope
.” City of Hope fosters harmonious collaboration between
different departments, academic disciplines, research efforts and
physicians to speed scientific advances from the laboratory bench to the
patient’s bedside. Its credo is to heal the body and bolster the soul so
that patients can live successful, rewarding lives after cancer or other
life-threatening diseases.

Ethan
Zohn
, winner of CBS’s reality TV show “Survivor” in 2002 and a
two-time cancer survivor of Hodgkin’s lymphoma, will ride on City of
Hope’s float and live tweet via @EthanZohn.
He is a keen supporter of cancer centers like City of Hope, whose track
record in innovative treatment options like stem cell transplants and
other cell-based therapies has prolonged so many lives.

Some of the float’s highlights include the monarch butterflies, which
symbolize the metamorphosis City of Hope has undergone over its 105-year
history
. It is now an internationally recognized medical center and
independent biomedical research institution that offers a unique blend
of compassionate patient care and research innovation not found anywhere
else. Like monarch butterflies who innately know the correct direction
to migrate each year even though they’ve never made the journey, City of
Hope’s physician-scientists have an internal compass that has led them
to transform the medical landscape. For example, City of Hope made the
foundational discoveries that led to the development of synthetic human
insulin and numerous
breakthrough cancer drugs
.

City of Hope physicians and nurses will ride on the float next to their
patients. The seven patients are a small sampling of the more than
68,400 international individuals City of Hope treated in 2018.

The riders on the float all agree that music plays an instrumental role
in patients’ lives and recovery – helps them heal, brings them comfort
or gives them temporary reprieve from a treatment’s side effects. One
City of Hope patient developed her singing voice because her fragile
condition prevented her from physical activity. Another patient, a
bassist, contributed to the soundtrack of dozens of blockbuster movies
that have touched so many lives. All of the patients say their medical
team at City of Hope delivered kind, harmonious treatment that pumped
life back into their souls.

The riders’ stories: (for more details, go to https://www.cityofhope.org/rose-parade-float)

  • Abraham
    Laboriel
    , 71, from Tarzana: When Abraham Laboriel was
    diagnosed with a blood cancer called multiple myeloma in 2016, he
    swore he wouldn’t let the disease beat him. He chose to be treated at
    City of Hope because his wife, a pediatrician, told him, “We need to
    find a doctor who doesn’t find your case ‘interesting.’ City of Hope
    has performed more than 14,000 bone marrow and stem cell transplants.
    We’re going there.” During the two-week transplant process, Laboriel
    and his wife stayed in a bungalow on campus at City of Hope where he
    could eat home-cooked meals in a private space and have unlimited
    visits from his two sons who, like Laboriel, are gifted musicians.
    They all made music together every day. “Music is very healing and has
    a tremendous power to keep people going beyond their own strength,”
    Laboriel said. “Music helped me regain my strength after cancer.”
    Laboriel, originally from Mexico, is recognized by many as “the most
    widely used session bassist of our time.” He has played in more than
    4,000 recordings and soundtracks, including “Coco,” “Jurassic World,”
    “Frozen,” “The Incredibles” and “Incredibles 2.” He has worked with
    people such as Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Dolly Parton, Elton
    John, Ray Charles and Madonna. Laboriel, now in total remission, is
    still actively touring and recording. He plans to continue to perform
    and record music indefinitely because he says musicians never really
    retire. Making music fills him with joy every day.
  • Caitlin
    Herron
    , 14, from Stevenson Ranch: The chemotherapy and
    full-body radiation that then 12-year-old Caitlin Herron underwent to
    treat a rare form of leukemia potentially stunted her growth,
    sidetracked her puberty and took away her ability to have children in
    the future. However, Herron, now 14 and in remission, said she prefers
    to think about the positive impact the disease has had. “Cancer
    affected my life in so many ways and changed how I saw life. It made
    me want to do all I can to give back,” she said. “I just really want
    to be an advocate for anyone going through cancer because it’s a
    difficult process.” To rally herself before her treatment, Herron, who
    loves singing, performed publicly for the first time. She wanted to
    prove that she could face a long-held fear head on — an analogy for
    the anxiety she felt over her first round of chemotherapy. While at
    City of Hope, Herron often sang “Tears in Heaven” by Eric Clapton
    because it reminded her to stay strong for the pediatric patients who
    had passed away while battling cancer. Herron is now a freshman in
    high school. She takes advanced courses, is involved in gymnastics and
    actively participates in many school activities. Herron hopes to learn
    how to play the guitar to one day create melodies for the songs she
    composed while in treatment at City of Hope. Most important, she hopes
    to inspire other cancer patients to continue to pursue their dreams
    despite all the hurdles and battles they may encounter.
  • Roger
    Sparks
    , 70, from Newport Beach: A litany of doctors’
    visits and long periods stuck in infusion chairs makes Roger Sparks,
    who has type 1 diabetes, extremely thankful for his music playlist.
    Music, especially jazz, helped Sparks through dark emotions. “When you
    spend so much time at a hospital, it’s inevitable that there will be
    moments where you feel alone,” Sparks said. “It’s easy to get
    depressed. Listening to music lifted my spirits.” City of Hope’s
    experimental treatment removed Sparks’s symptoms of blood glucose
    control-related problems associated with his type 1 diabetes, a
    disease he has had since he was 33. For decades, Sparks was able to
    control his condition with insulin. But diabetic problems, including
    passing out due to hypoglycemia, began to interfere with his quality
    of life and profession as a computer executive with international
    clients. After some research, Sparks decided to undergo two islet cell
    transplants at City of Hope. The first one on Jan. 1, 2016, gave him a
    new lease on life for the New Year. He went from having about three
    low blood-sugar episodes a week to zero. He felt healthier than he had
    in a long time and decided to get another islet cell transplant to see
    if he could get off insulin altogether. His second transplant was in
    June 2016. Sparks no longer has to take insulin – just
    immunosuppression drugs. All of his diabetes-related problems have
    been eliminated. On Jan. 1, he will celebrate his three-year
    anniversary of feeling healthier than he has in decades thanks to City
    of Hope’s medical care.
  • Lauren Lugo, 26, from Laguna Niguel: From the moment Lauren
    Lugo began to crawl, her mother knew something was awry. But doctor
    after doctor brushed the worry away. As an 8 year old, Lugo bruised
    easily, had dark under-eye circles and suffered from major fatigue.
    X-rays revealed Lugo had unusual, growing pockets filled with blood in
    just about all of her bones. Doctors were befuddled. They said Lugo
    did not have cancer, and the blood-filled pockets were not malignant.
    Physicians, however, worried a push or fall would break her fragile
    bones, so Lugo avoided sports and physical activities. Instead, she
    learned how to play the piano and developed her singing voice. A
    surgical biopsy in her left femur revealed that she had “diffuse
    hemangiomatosis of the bone,” an extremely rare condition defined by
    the presence of nonmalignant tumors of blood vessels in bones. Lugo
    now knew what she had, but her doctors didn’t know how to treat it. By
    this time, Lugo was in her early teens. Her mom wanted answers and
    took her to a cancer research hospital. City of Hope’s Judith Sato,
    M.D., confirmed the diagnosis and prescribed a drug called interferon
    that made the blood pockets smaller and stabilized Lugo’s health. Two
    years later, the type of interferon Lugo took stopped being
    manufactured, but because her condition was stable, Sato did not
    prescribe a new drug. City of Hope is closely monitoring Lugo’s
    health. Lugo said going through something so serious and severe gave
    her confidence. “I didn’t let my disease hinder me. I wanted to prove
    that your situation doesn’t define you. How you rise from them and
    your hope gives you the greatest gifts.” So rather than observing
    life, Lugo took on leadership roles in middle and high school, started
    a choir in high school and volunteered for charities like Habitat for
    Humanity, Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure and Toby’s House Crisis
    Nursery, which provides refuge and safety for abused and neglected
    children. She even learned oldies so that she could sing
    memory-inducing songs to senior citizens who suffered from Alzheimer’s
    disease or dementia. Notably, Lugo has performed opera at Carnegie
    Hall and aspires to be a professional opera singer.
  • Candida
    Celaya
    , 54, from San Dimas: Two weeks after Candida
    Celaya was told she had the BRCA2 mutation that significantly
    increases breast cancer risk, the middle school teacher was diagnosed
    with Stage 2 breast cancer. Although two of her older sisters already
    survived breast cancer thanks to City of Hope, Celaya’s first thought
    was that she was going to die. Instead, she had a double mastectomy at
    City of Hope, immediate reconstructive surgery, chemotherapy and then
    radiation. The day before starting chemotherapy, Celaya watched the
    musical “Wicked” and was touched by the song “Defying Gravity.” The
    song imbued her with strength and became her theme song to survive
    cancer and restructure her life. For example, Celaya had always wanted
    to volunteer but never did. She also wanted to return to musical
    theater after taking a long hiatus but never found the time. Now, she
    fosters dogs, shares her cancer story via City of Hope platforms and
    performs as often as she is able to in local theatre. “Illness lit a
    fire under me to do the things I’ve always wanted to do and to give
    back to my community in ways that I had always thought were important
    but couldn’t find time to do,” she said. “Faced with death, I
    re-evaluated my life and understood I needed to live a purposeful life
    going forward. I wanted to do my part in leaving this world a better
    place — not just for my family but also for the community.”
  • Olivia
    Gaines
    , 23, from Eagle Rock: Olivia Gaines was an
    undergraduate student at Kalamazoo College in Michigan when she was
    diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. She took a leave of absence
    from school and came to City of Hope for a stem cell transplant. Her
    cancer is now gone, but she continues to be treated for graft-versus-host
    disease
    (GVHD), a long-term side effect that occurs in about half
    of allogeneic stem cell transplant patients. Gaines is an aspiring
    songwriter and amateur pianist who tutored children, including those
    with autism, how to play the piano. She believes music — especially
    Disney songs — has the ability to eject fear and anxiety from
    pediatric patients. For this reason, she recommends that people
    subscribe to a streaming service or create a playlist for hospital
    patients rather than buy flowers. Gaines works at a strength-training
    facility in Eagle Rock that trains specialized populations, including
    cancer patients, how to move smart and stay strong. Temporarily on
    leave from school, Gaines continues to fill her brain with knowledge
    by asking physicians, nurses, cancer patients and everyone she
    encounters a myriad of questions. She also goes to the library at City
    of Hope to read scientific papers on her disease. “I’ve had the most
    amazing people come teach me here at City of Hope, where I received
    lifesaving treatments.”
  • Cheryl
    Wiers
    , 43, from Redlands: Cheryl Wiers thought she was
    rid of her non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma twice, but it returned each time.
    The mother of two eventually put her trust in a groundbreaking City of
    Hope treatment that combined chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T and
    autologous stem cell transplant. CAR T therapy reprograms white blood
    cells called T cells to recognize and destroy cancer cells by adding a
    CAR to those cells. In Wiers’s case, CAR T cells were genetically
    engineered to target the antigen CD19, a protein found on the surface
    of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and other cancers. So far, the treatment has
    kept Wiers’s cancer from returning for a third time. Certain songs
    bring back memories of the drive from her home in Redlands to City of
    Hope. It was a music-filled hour. To this day, “Down to the River” by
    Jordan Feliz retrieves memories of family trips to City of Hope.
    Wiers, a speech pathologist, is now cancer-free. Music continues to
    play an important part in her life by demarcating different life
    moments.

– #harmonyofhope –

About City of Hope

City of Hope is an independent research and treatment center for cancer,
diabetes and other life-threatening diseases. Designated as one of only
49 comprehensive cancer centers, the highest recognition bestowed by the
National Cancer Institute, City of Hope is also a founding member of the
National Comprehensive Cancer Network, with research and treatment
protocols that advance care throughout the world. City of Hope’s main
campus is in Duarte, California, just northeast of Los Angeles, with additional
locations
throughout Southern California. It is ranked as one of
“America’s Best Hospitals” in cancer by U.S. News World
Report
. Founded in 1913, City of Hope is a pioneer in the fields of bone
marrow transplantation
, diabetes
and numerous
breakthrough cancer drugs
based on technology developed at the
institution. For more information about City
of Hope
, follow us on Facebook,
Twitter,
YouTube
or Instagram.

About the Pasadena Tournament of Roses®

The Tournament of Roses is a volunteer organization that hosts America’s
New Year Celebration® with the Rose Parade®
presented by Honda, the Rose Bowl Game® presented by
Northwestern Mutual and a variety of accompanying events. 935 volunteer
members of the association will drive the success of 130th Rose Parade
themed “The Melody of Life,” on Tuesday, January 1, 2019,
followed by the 105th Rose Bowl Game. For more information, visit www.tournamentofroses.com.
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