Life After Cancer

Fifty years ago, only a fraction of children diagnosed with cancer lived to see their next birthday. Today, thanks to advancements in therapies and surgery, kids with cancer have a nearly 80 percent survival rate. That translates to one in every 570 adults between the ages of 20 and 34 being a survivor of childhood cancer.

This is a tremendous success, but the treatments that save so many lives also have a downside: They often damage healthy cells and tissue as well. As a result, children who survive pediatric cancer face an increased risk of “late effects”—health problems including organ dysfunction, reproductive issues, secondary cancers, and psychosocial challenges that surface years or even decades after treatment.

“Dedicated donors like Shahan and Camilla play a key role in meeting the many needs of our cancer survivors.”

In 2016, UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals in Oakland and San Francisco launched a joint Cancer Survivorship Program that brings together the existing programs on both campuses to meet the long-term needs of the Bay Area survivor population.

Co-directed by Drs. Robert Goldsby and James Feusner—both recognized leaders in the field of pediatric oncology—the multidisciplinary program helps survivors achieve optimal health through research-driven clinical care and education for patients and families. As a key component, the program includes a research center focused on investigating late effects of cancer and its treatments.

The Cancer Survivorship Program is made possible in part by a generous gift from Camilla and Shahan Soghikian. In his role as a member of the UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals Board of Directors, Shahan frequently hears pediatric cancer success stories. But he also understands the potential challenges that face survivors down the road.

As parents of a young cancer survivor, Shahan and Camilla appreciate firsthand the importance of this program in helping survivors navigate life after treatment. They feel fortunate to have benefited from the years of research and dedicated professionals that culminated in the successful treatment of their son, who is now in medical school.

“When Drs. Goldsby and Feusner approached us with the idea of supporting an effort to create a sustainable program built around survivors, we were thrilled to become a part of it,” says Shahan.

Support from the Soghikians will help fund crucial services not covered by health insurance. “Dedicated donors like Shahan and Camilla play a key role in meeting the many needs of our cancer survivors,” Dr. Feusner says. “This gracious donation will allow us to collaborate to an extent not possible before.”