Why we invest your donations with Levine Cancer Institute

There are a number of high-profile cancer centers around the country that devote some portion of their financial and personnel resources to investigating and treating sarcoma.  In fact, our foundation donated to one of them each of our first few years.  Then Levine Cancer Institute opened its doors in Charlotte in 2012. We were impressed with their commitment to outstanding patient care and their laser focus on successfully treating cancers, including rare and complex ones like sarcoma, right in the community in which patients live.  This is especially poignant for sarcoma sufferers, who oftentimes have to travel great distances to access cutting-edge treatment options and knowledgeable physicians.

Our relationship with Levine Cancer Institute has blossomed since 2012, and we directly and passionately support their sarcoma research program with our foundation’s funds. We believe that committing to our ailing citizens through investing in LCI’s research program creates a stronger and more connected community.  We believe that this investment is worthwhile because the people of the Carolinas who live with sarcoma need the best care possible without distant travel.  And, because a top-notch, staunchly supported cancer center attracts talent and resources to our city, which leads to further funding of scientific research.  This circular connectivity between citizens, researchers, physicians, and sufferers also resonates outward and expands global hope and awareness.  In doing so, we are working worldwide towards sarcoma cures.

“The Sarcoma Stomp is pretty incredible in terms of the number of participants and the amount of money that goes directly into the hands of physicians and investigators to study this tumor – that’s incredible!”

Dr. Edward Kim
Chair, Solid Tumor Oncology and Investigational Therapeutics, Levine Cancer Institute

About Levine Cancer Institute

Levine Cancer Institute opened its doors in 2012 as part of Carolinas Healthcare System, bringing a transformative approach to the delivery of cancer care in the Carolinas. The Institute’s unique access model delivers innovative treatments at facilities both within the Charlotte metropolitan area and beyond, thereby eliminating barriers to world class care for patients in less populated regions. Levine Cancer Institute has expanded to 25 sites within the Carolinas Healthcare System footprint and now treats 15,000 newly diagnosed cancer patients a year, putting it on par with some of the most distinguished cancer centers in the nation.

In March, 2016 Carolinas Healthcare System announced a $150 million expansion of Levine Cancer Institute due to its phenomenal growth. This funding will support the construction of a seven-floor 250,000 square-foot advanced outpatient center adjacent to the Institute’s research and administrative headquarters. The new facility will also enhance translational research capacity.

As a not-for-profit healthcare provider, Levine Cancer Institute relies on philanthropic support to provide new and innovative research. This support is especially vital for advancements in rare cancers, like sarcoma, that receive little governmental research funding.  The Paula Takacs Foundation has established The Paula Takacs Foundation Sarcoma Research Fund at Levine Cancer Institute to fund critical research projects needed to make scientific advancements in laboratory research and to offer patients novel treatment options through clinical trials.

Current Sarcoma Projects

We are very proud to advance the scientific study of sarcoma at Levine Cancer Institute through several initiatives. Firstly, our foundation is directly funding an immunotherapy/chemotherapy clinical trial at the Institute (LCI-SAR-STS-PEM-001: A pilot study evaluating the safety, tolerability and efficacy of doxorubicin and pembrolizumab in patients with metastatic or unresectable soft tissue sarcoma). As part of the LCI-SAR-STS-PEM-001 study, Levine plans to evaluate the correlation between immunotherapy markers (PD-L1 expression levels) and the clinical effectiveness of pembrolizumab, investigate other biomarkers that may correlate with tumor responses, and evaluate differences in tumor tissue characteristics in biopsies taken during or post-treatment with pembrolizumab versus baseline.

Additionally, The Paula Takacs Foundation will be providing funds to conduct blood biopsies of those patients enrolled in this new trial. Levine Cancer Institute researchers will utilize the molecular information learned from the standard tumor tissue biopsies and compare them to the molecular information contained in the circulating tumor DNA found in the blood. While obtaining tumor tissue is still the gold standard for molecular profiling, there has been increased interest in evaluating the DNA in the blood (circulating tumor DNA), as obtaining a blood sample is a less invasive procedure and may yield different or complementary results compared to the tumor biopsy. Having paired solid and liquid biopsy samples will allow LCI to further elucidate the roles various molecular markers play in the development and progression of soft tissue sarcoma. These blood biopsies cost between $1,500 – $5,000 each, and will be collected multiple times during the course of treatment for the 30 patients in the clinical trial.

Lastly, the foundation is funding the analysis certain tissue samples in sarcoma patients across the Levine Cancer Institute network to identify unique biomarkers.  This genomic testing is critical to structuring future studies and clinical trials.  It costs several thousand dollars to generate a biomarker panel of each sarcoma patient’s tumor tissue sample.

Our long-term vision is to help expand this clinical trial program to 5-8 novel protocols, since this breadth of offerings is critical for a cancer that has over 150 subtypes. With a price tag of $500,000 to millions per trial, we certainly need your support to achieve this important goal.

We will regularly update participants and donors on the progress we make towards executing these vital endeavors through our email communications and social media. For personal, one-on-one project updates, please feel free to contact us by phone or email.

Please contact Levine Cancer Institute at (980) 442-2000 to get information on sarcoma clinical trials or to make patient appointments.

Levine Cancer Institute
Paula Takacs Foundation for Sarcoma Research Plaque at Levine Center Institute

The Paula Takacs Foundation Plaque at the Levine Cancer Institute

Sue Udelson posing next to PT Foundation Plaque