By Jack Quach
Celebrity artists Nicole Kidman, Trisha Yearwood, Rita Wilson, Keith Urban, Garth Brooks and Carrie Underwood joined virtual hands on Giving Tuesday to support the Stanford Women’s Cancer Center.
The Under One Umbrella online fundraising event featured performances by the artists, discussions on medical advances with leaders in the Women’s Cancer Center and testimonies from patients impacted by the fundraisers.
Under One Umbrella honorary chairs Yearwood and Kidman opened the premiere with a performance by Yearwood and remarks by Kidman, who reflected on the impact of her mother’s cancer diagnosis.
“It is urgently important to maintain our focus on the search for better means of prevention, early detection and treatment” of women’s cancer, Kidman said.
Underwood also celebrated the work of the Women’s Cancer Center, saying that every woman who has cancer “is surrounded by a family and a community who are deeply and lastingly affected by the anxiety and pain of her situation,” and adding that she is honored to be a part of the center’s mission.
Stanford Medicine physicians shared an array of recent breakthroughs in the prevention, detection and treatment of women’s cancer. Dr. Oliver Dorigo, an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology, introduced a novel medication that works to “prevent cancer cells from repairing DNA damage,” which he said could “increase survival by at least a year.”
Dr. Jonathan Berek, the director of the Women’s Cancer Center, said that the center strives to “develop treatment approaches that can be personalized,” and introduce increasingly effective treatments for patients.
Dr. Erinn Rankin, an assistant professor of radiation oncology, shed light on flash radiation, a growing method for treating cancer through radiation therapy at extremely high rates. Rankin said the technique, used to treat ovarian cancer, “protects normal tissues from radiation-induced toxicity” more effectively than ordinary radiation therapy.
Physicians also spoke of the impact that donations make on the center’s ability to achieve its mission. Dr. Allison Kurian ’95 M.S. ’06, director of the center’s genetics program, works with families with heightened risks of developing cancer due to genetic factors.
Kurian explained that funding from annual Under One Umbrella events is fundamental to the support of medical research such as hers.
The donations enable researchers “the opportunity to study exciting new things in all of our research groups … [such as] understanding genetic risk and our local populations and thinking about ways to approach testing relatives,” she told The Daily.
Lisa Schatz, co-founder and chair emeritus of Under One Umbrella, told The Daily that the mission of the organization is to “make sure that the community has access to the top-notch, world-class Cancer Center in our backyard.”
More than a decade after the organization’s founding in 2009, the annual event has grown to feature celebrity performers each year who have been impacted by women’s cancer. During its 10th anniversary celebration last year, Under One Umbrella held its live event in the Bing Concert Hall and raised a record-high $3 million. This year’s fundraising total has not yet been published, as the event is still viewable online.
“We get a lot of support from the community, and the performers have also been very generous,” Schatz said. With over $52 million raised “for projects benefiting women with breast, ovarian, and other gynecologic cancers,” the event has paved the way for researchers to undergo otherwise impossible projects, according to the Under One Umbrella 2020 website.
While Schatz looks forward to returning to in-person events, she said that this year’s virtual platform allowed the Stanford Women’s Cancer Center “to broaden the message” to more people worldwide.
With the new experience and online donations, Schatz said that she is excited to “record future events and then put them on social media again” for supporters to have full access — new territory for Under One Umbrella.
Contact Jack Quach at jacksf2004 ‘at’ gmail.com.