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Tower Unites Neighbors To Raise Money For Cancer Research

Pictured on a large television screen is a good-looking man in his mid-30s. What he is about to say is devastating.

One week after his daughter was born, he was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer.

His only hope at the time was Tower Cancer Research Foundation, he says.

The next slide on the screen shows the same man now pictured with his little girl who has grown into a beautiful dark-haired, elementary-aged child.

A second man, a little older, stands up and says he was diagnosed with cancer seven years ago and underwent treatments with severe side effects, until coming to Tower six months ago.

His side effects are now gone and he has already lost 50 of the 90 pounds he gained since his diagnosis.

A third man stands and says he was first diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 1981. After three weeks of radiation, doctors told him he was “cured.”

But when the cancer came back, he decided to go to Tower. He is now in remission and attributes it to his new doctors.

“I have a 3-year-old son,” he said. “I am hopeful (Tower) can find a cure for my son’s generation,” he said.

The three survivors gently re-told their stories to the hundreds of people in attendance at Tower Cancer Research Foundation’s “Tower of Hope Gala” on Sunday at The Beverly Hilton.   

Chaired by Elizabeth Drucker and Barbara Federman and emceed by comedian and TV host Craig Ferguson, the evening raised funds to support the foundation’s research efforts.

“Your support ensures that Tower Cancer Research Foundation will be able to continue important cancer research, providing cutting edge treatment to those who need it most,” the chairs said. “Because of your generosity, we are able to turn no one away who would benefit by the newest and most progressive clinical trials.”

The non-profit, established in 1996, is dedicated to finding more effective cancer treatments to one-day find a cure. The foundation conducts “leading edge clinical trials to develop new treatment options for patients suffering from cancer and blood disorders.”

With more than 50 clinical trials, TCRF is one of the leaders in delivering Phase I, II and III trials in West Los Angeles, said Chairman Dr. Steven Yamshon.  

Although science and medicine are two of Tower’s core strengths, caring for patients is the organization’s hallmark, said Yamshon. “Patients have told me our caring physicians and staff have made an intolerable situation more pleasant.”

One of those doctors is Dr. Philomena McAndrew, who was honored with the Healing Award on Sunday night.   

Described as “an Angel,” she was introduced by a former patient Shari Saracino, who said she met McAndrew 20 years ago when she diagnosed with cancer.

Saracino explained that Mc-Andrew saved her life.

“She prepared my family for the fact that I might not have made it out of surgery,” she said.

But because of McAndrew she did. The two have remained close friends since.

 “The time we have with (McAndrew) makes us all survivors,” said Saracino.

McAndrew, a doctor at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, is a founding member of the Tower Hematology Oncology Medical Group. She has been a principal investigator on several breast cancer studies, as her special interest is breast and other women’s cancers.

She has been involved in numerous committees at Cedars-Sinai, including chairing the Pharmacy and Therapeutics Committee, serving as the clinical vice-chief of medicine and on the Cancer and the Medical Executive Committees.

“Philomena McAndrew is one of the finest physicians and oncologists in the country,” said Dr. Solomon Hamburg, president of TCRF.

McAndrew was honored alongside Nancy Mishkin recipient of the Hope Award and Steve Smith, who was awarded the Humanity honor.

Friend Brindell Gottlieb, who said she first met Mishkin when purchasing one of her sculpture, introduced Mishkin. She spoke fondly of her friend highlighting her many accomplishments, explaining that when Mishkin has a goal, she always ‘conquers it.”

“She is indeed indomitable,” said Gottleib.

Hamburg added that Mishkin has been associated with TCRF for more than 10 years as a member of the board, gala chair and member of the executive committee.

“Her dedication, guidance and hard work have helped establish us within the L.A. charitable community,” said Hamburg. “Her commitment and charity to all those afflicted with cancer cannot be overstated.”

Mishkin was born in Germany to two Holocaust survivors. She was 2-years-old when the family moved to the U.S.

She says she learned to view America from the divergent perspectives of an immigrant and a native as her family built a new life in Texas before moving to Los Angeles.

“Mom and dad, this one is for you,” she said when accepting the award.

Mishkin currently serves as president and chairman of Beit T’ Shuvah with her husband Jack. She is a founder of the Music Center; a member of the Artistic Directors Circle of Music Center; a past board member of the Blue Ribbon Music Center, the Sonance Ear Institute and The Council of The Children’s Burn Foundation.

The third honoree of the night, Smith, was a co-founder and president of the broadcast music industry publishing, production and consulting firm Album Network, which he managed locally before it was acquired by publicly-traded SFX Entertainment in 1998. He currently is CEO and the general partner of Anthem Music and Media Fund and president of the board of governors of Sherwood County Club.

“His dedication and leadership have significantly contributed to the foundation’s enhanced operations and success, and we would not be where we are today without him,” said Hamburg.

Despite the dwindling economy, the gala still raised significant funds for Tower’s cancer research through an elaborate silent auction and a special “Raise the Paddle” portion of the evening where attendees donated to six different cancer research trials.

“The past 12 months have been dramatic,” said Hamburg. “Nationally we elected a new president, a significant recession is underway, major banks and financial institutions are failing, or have failed, the government is printing trillions of dollars in the hope of salvaging the financial catastrophe and Bernie Madoff has embezzled billions from charitable organizations, universities and families.

“But during this time 1.5 million more cases of cancer was diagnosed.”

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