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Dorothy Foundation donates to Biodesign Institute project to diagnose pancreatic cancer earlier  

November 21, 2017

Last year, pancreatic cancer overtook breast cancer as the third leading cause of cancer deaths. With a five-year survival rate of just 8 percent, it is one of the deadliest forms of cancer.

But with early detection, that survival rate rises to 60 percent, even with conventional treatments. That’s why the Dorothy Foundation donated $25,000 to a project led by Stephen Johnston, director of the Biodesign Center for Innovations in Medicine and professor at the School of Life Sciences at Arizona State University.Dorothy Foundation check presentationThe Dorothy Foundation donated $25,000 to the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University for a project to diagnose Stage 1 pancreatic cancer.Download Full Image

Johnston is hoping to transform the diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. His research aims to detect Stage 1 pancreatic cancer with an immunosignature technology he developed at the Biodesign Institute at ASU.

Johnston said the donation will help him gather blood samples of Stage 1 pancreatic cancer, which are difficult to collect because pancreatic cancer does not create symptoms at early stages. He needs those samples for a pilot study to prove the immunosignature technology works, a key step to developing a reliable and inexpensive diagnostic test.

“We try to push the edge, and we feel this is our responsibility for the university,” Johnston said. “We should be taking the really high-risk chances out there, which often starts just like this. It starts with a little seed fund that’s willing to take a bet, and then we see that catalyze enough interest that we can get the bigger funding to come in, and that’s been our modus operandi for years and years.”

Longtime FOX 10 Phoenix sports anchor Jude LaCava and his sister Sandra LaCava started the Dorothy Foundation to honor their mother, who died of breast cancer at age 49, and accelerate cancer research. Sandra LaCava serves as executive director of the foundation.

“We know the devastation of loss and the tremendous torment that many patients go through, especially when it’s late-stage cancer,” said Jude LaCava. “We’re here to get in the trenches and support the researchers like Dr. Johnston here at ASU Biodesign.”

The Dorothy Foundation presented a check during a ceremony at the Biodesign Institute on Friday morning. Friends of Jude and Sandy LaCava who had lost loved ones to pancreatic cancer joined them at the event, and Johnston gave them a tour of his laboratory and an update on his work to develop better diagnostic tools for cancer.

“I can’t express enough my appreciation for Jude, Sandy and the Dorothy Foundation for giving us continued support for what we’re trying to do here,” Johnston said.

So far, the Dorothy Foundation has donated more than $100,000 to support cancer research at the Biodesign Institute. Eric Spicer, senior director of development at the ASU Foundation, thanked the Dorothy Foundation and the LaCavas personally for their support, which contributes to Campaign ASU 2020.

“Cancer is such an awful thing, and the fact that you all have taken the initiative to establish a foundation in honor of your mom and recognize her legacy in this way is an inspiration to others to also join the fight, so we thank you for that,” Spicer said.

“You’ve chosen Biodesign. You’ve been an advocate for us for a number of years now, and that means the world to us. It’s more than just the dollar figure. That provides us inspiration to keep going, and we’re just incredibly grateful for the support.”



January 2017 -


The Dorothy Foundation continues to partner with the innovative work at Cancer Commons with the goal of providing more treatment options for current cancer patients. Marty Tenenbaum and Dr. Emma Shtivelman have utilized one of the most innovative information based patient oriented programs to assist patients and their oncologists in the fight against cancer. We urge everyone battling cancer to get the word out on the data sharing that is changing the way we treat cancer through the remarkable work at Cancer Commons. The following letter is one of the most recent success stories. Mary Beth Zolik Smith was one of the most popular radio and news personalities in Ohio (I worked with her during the 1980's). She has quite a story to tell in her fight against Non Hodgkins Lymphoma.  We urge all of you to donate, support and get behind the great work at Cancer Commons just one of the very important partners to the Dorothy Foundation. Please take a minute and review the following letter. 


I can not thank you enough for your assist via the Dorothy Foundation in linking me with Cancer Commons. When I reached out to Cancer Commons I was introduced to Emma Shtivelman, Ph D. Emma was one of the most positive, knowledgeable and encouraging persons I have encountered in my long journey to combat NHL. My cancer treatments covered the usual and customary standard of care from chemotherapy to stem cell transfer. None of these interventions worked. My pursuit of information and direction relative to immune therapy and clinical trials  led me to you and your referral to Cancer Commons and Dr. Emma. You were truly the life line I had hoped for. Dr Emma helped me identify several clinical trials that were recruiting clients with refractory NHL. With Emma's resourcefulness I was linked with hospitals in Boston, Tampa, Detroit and Cleveland. I was accepted into the KITE Clinical trial at the Cleveland Clinic in late November of 2016. I had my re-engineered Tcells infused into my system on December 27, 2016 and learned on January 23, 2017 after my most recent PET scan that I had a complete response to the immune therapy. Needless to say,  my family and I are ecstatic with this news and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your assist in this miracle. Your referral to Cancer Commons was a blessing for which I will always be grateful. If I can in any way help you help others as they navigate their cancer treatment options, please don't hesitate to call me.

Sincerely and with tremendous appreciation,

Mary Beth Zolik-Smith


Super Patient: Diane Milne Gives Other Cancer Patients the Tools that Helped Her Survive

June 14, 2014 started out like any other day for Diane Milne. But then, just before the two-hour Zumba exercise class she took almost every morning, she suddenly couldn’t breathe. “I had an overwhelming sense of doom,” recalls Diane, a 68-year-old retired nurse. “I was home alone and I thought I was going to die.”



The Dorothy Foundation Launches a Guided Imagery Library for Cancer Patients at Chandler Regional Medical Center 

Guided imagery is a holistic, mind-body therapy that consists of healing words and images, set to soothing music, to achieve specific healing goals. Guided imagery is designed to connect with a person’s innate cancer fighting immune system, which is a person’s strongest ally and oldest friend.

Read the full article here


Dorothy Foundation in pursuit of pre-stage one cancer test