Bacchieri Family $1 million gift to propel head and neck cancer care and research

The Bacchieri Family Fund has given Christiana Care Health System $1 million for head and neck cancer care and research. The gift to the Helen F. Graham Cancer Center & Research Institute’s Head and Neck Cancer Multidisciplinary Center (MDC) will support clinical care delivery and clinical trials for cancers of the head and neck.

Donors Gregg Bacchieri and his wife Stacey, of Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, are longtime Christiana Care supporters. Three years ago, Mr. Bacchieri was diagnosed with throat cancer at the Graham Cancer Center. He received life-saving treatment in the care of Adam Raben, M.D., chair of Radiation Oncology, surgeon Neil G. Hockstein, M.D., of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, and medical oncologist Charles J. Schneider, M.D., FACP.

“Dr. Raben and the team are outstanding. I’ve received excellent care and attention from the moment I was diagnosed,” said Mr. Bacchieri, a retired senior MBNA executive. “Stacey and I wanted to show our family’s gratitude to the health system and hope this gift will springboard future philanthropic investments in important research.”

Nationwide, according the National Cancer Institute, cancers of the head and neck account for approximately 3 percent of all cancers. They are nearly twice as common among men as among women. An alarming rise in rates of oropharynx — mouth and throat — cancer related to human papillomavirus (HPV) is driving urgency for research into new clinical protocols and treatments.

“Across the country, we’re experiencing epidemic-like incidences of HPV-driven oropharynx cancer in non-smoking men ages 35 to 55,” said Dr. Raben. “The pattern is mirrored in Christiana Care’s patient population.”

The Radiation Oncology Department’s newest generation linear accelerator, the Elektra Versa HD, is among the powerful tools used at the Helen F. Graham Cancer Center & Research Institute to provide the highest quality of care to patients with head and neck cancers.

The Bacchieri donation marks the first major gift to Christiana Care specifically for head and neck cancer.

“Research is a cornerstone in the value and partnership that Christiana Care provides the people we serve,” said Nicholas J. Petrelli, M.D., FACS, Bank of America endowed medical director of the Graham Cancer Center. “Gregg and Stacey’s generous support will help us to pursue promising curative therapies by moving innovative approaches from the lab to the clinic.”

The nationally recognized Head and Neck Cancer Multidisciplinary Center sees more than 90 percent of new head and neck cancer cases in Delaware. The multidisciplinary center model brings together clinicians and researchers from different specialties to create targeted treatment plans for each patient. As part of the Graham Cancer Center, a National Cancer Institute Community Oncology Research Program, which brings cancer clinical trials and care delivery research to patients in their own communities, the Head and Neck Multidisciplinary Center offers access to state-of-the-art clinical studies for early- and advanced-stage cancer.

“Gregg and Stacey’s visionary support will enable the Head and Neck Multidisciplinary Center to expand the Graham Cancer Center’s already robust pharmaceutical trials program into new realms, including genomic testing and targeted therapeutics for head and neck cancer,” said Dr. Schneider.

Drs. Raben, Hockstein and Schneider developed the Head and Neck Multidisciplinary Center. They closely collaborate on care and research that cuts across radiation, oncology and surgery. The gift will help them drive two of the center’s immediate goals.

“First, we want to improve inpatient and outpatient clinical care delivery and understand how our multidisciplinary model provides value to patients and the health system,” Dr. Raben said. “Second, we want to participate in or initiate Phase I or Phase II clinical trials that look at ways to provide the most effect and least toxic therapies for people with head and neck cancer, particularly when it’s associated with HPV. This gift provides the seed money to build on our existing infrastructure by allowing us to hire research staff and implement new technologies and systems necessary for a world-class program.”

An example of the research the Head and Neck Multidisciplinary Center will lead, in collaboration with universities and biopharmaceutical companies, is the program’s upcoming Phase II clinical trial combining immunotherapy and radiation after surgery for patients who have HPV-positive oropharynx cancer.

“This is an unprecedented time for head and neck cancer,” said Dr. Hockstein. “It’s affecting more people at younger ages and getting the attention it deserves. When community members like the Bacchieris partner with researchers to raise awareness about the disease and give funds for research, we can accelerate discoveries and treatments that will help improve quality and length of life for people with head and neck cancer.”