The “Lexus” of Cancer Treatment

February 15, 2010

It’s not uncommon for a fundraising event to raffle a luxury car, but the Lexus offered at the 23rd annual Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center Gala has a story behind it that exemplifies the drive to survive. 

In October of 2006, Suseel Kanagaratnam was diagnosed with stage IV colorectal cancer and he began a fight for his life. Stage IV means the cancer had spread to other organs internally leaving Suseel with a poor prognosis.  After learning of his cancer diagnosis, his doctor delivered devastating news—he had less than six months to live.

Suseel took the grim news to his employer, the Washington Area Lexus Dealers, to let them know he’d not be returning to work in favor of spending his remaining time with his family and friends. There, he received advice that changed his life once more. “The dealership has been involved with Lombardi for seven years. So, when I shared my news with my boss, General Manager Garry Whipkey, he strongly encouraged me go to Lombardi for a second opinion because he wanted me to seek the best treatment possible,” says Suseel.

Suseel took his boss’s advice and made an appointment at Lombardi with John Marshall, MD , director of the Ruesch Center for the Cure of Gastrointestinal Cancers. Lombardi’s unique status as an NCI designated Comprehensive Cancer Center meant Suseel had access the most advanced treatments including a cancer vaccine still in clinical trials.  Suseel now had the “Lexus” of cancer treatment teams: Lombardi, Marshall, a cutting-edge therapy, and his own will to live.

Suseel’s treatment involved arduous doses of chemotherapy and radiation followed by surgery. After surgery, he enrolled in the vaccine study with Dr. Marshall. The hope was that the vaccine would boost Suseel’s immune system and allow it to attack the remaining cancer cells or any others that would come up. It appears, that’s exactly what happened and to his colleagues’ delight, he was able to attend the Lombardi Gala with his co-workers and friends. “It’s been three years since my diagnosis,” says Suseel. “And, I’m thriving thanks in part to the clinical trials underway at Lombardi.”

Suseel join more than 850 guests to “Celebrate Lombardi” through survivorship and recognize those who have fought and are fighting this ravaging disease.

Author: Karen Mallet