Providence Cancer Center Luncheon as #FINISHCANCER Campaign Launches

May 15, 2015

PORTLAND, Ore. — Humor and hope made for a winning combination at Providence’s 17th annual “Creating Hope for Cancer Patients Luncheon” this week, which also marked the start of its #FINISHCANCER campaign. The luncheon raised a record $615,000 for research at Providence Cancer Center, which is internationally known for its immunotherapy work.

Researchers, patients, caregivers and donors gathered to hear inspirational stories from a variety of speakers, including:

  • Mark Williams, who was an early recipient of immunotherapy for advanced melanoma. Now, eight years later, he thrives in the company of his grandkids.
  • Australian citizen Julie Randall, who searched the world for a clinical trial to battle her stage IV metastatic melanoma – and found it in Portland at Providence Cancer Center.
  • Marisa Acocella Marchetto, a self-proclaimed “cancer vixen” who set out to “kick cancer in five-inch heels.”

Marchetto, a cartoonist for The New Yorker, is the author and illustrator of the graphic memoir “CancerVixen,” which chronicles the artist’s personal breast cancer journey. Her keynote address had luncheon attendees roaring with laughter as she described her sometimes overbearing mother (or as she put it, “smother”). Many then found themselves wiping tears away as Marchetto came to realize her course of treatment would mean never having children.

“I never thought I would be a cancer patient,” Marchetto said. But, challenged by a friend, she left behind being a “victim,” and found her “vixen.”

“What had me cowering suddenly became empowering.”

That empowerment helped her through surgery, chemotherapy and radiation – and fueled her long-term engagement with fighting cancer. Since her diagnosis, Marchetto has raised more than $1 million for cancer research and to provide free mammograms for uninsured women in New York City, her hometown.

She ended her humorous and poignant talk by urging others to join in the fight, “Right here, right now – it is time to end cancer on this planet.”

And the crowd responded generously by raising $615,000 for cancer research at Providence, which is led by Walter J. Urba, M.D., Ph.D., oncologist and director, Robert W. Franz Cancer Research Center in the Earle A. Chiles Research Institute.

“All of us have been touched by cancer,” Dr. Urba told the crowd. “We fight because of you.”

Dr. Urba’s team of nearly 90 researchers is part of an elite international network eliciting novel immunotherapy treatments from the laboratory and quickly getting them into clinical trials with patients.

“We work hard every day for cancer patients,” Dr. Urba said. “We work to give them hope. We are fighting to finish cancer.”

Providence’s leadership in the cancer field goes beyond groundbreaking immunotherapy research. The cancer center serves more patients than any other health care system in Oregon and offers four times as many clinical trials as the national average. Last year, Providence enrolled 878 patients in cancer studies.

To learn more about Providence Cancer Center, visit