Cancer patients are cured all the time at City of Hope not because the Duarte cancer center has some kind of miracle drugs stashed away in its laboratories, but because doctors and researchers work in tandem to provide patients with the maximum number of treatment alternatives.

In 1997, City of Hope had gross patient revenues of nearly $314 million. Its oncology network is the largest in the nation, with more than 750,000 covered lives. The center spends $1 million every week on biomedical research and is 90 percent dedicated to cancer.

In addition to patient revenues, City of Hope receives funding each year from National Cancer Institute grants, licensing agreements with drug producers, and philanthropic contributions.

By strongly focusing on cancer, the center aims to give patients a feeling of empowerment that City of Hope has the resources and knowledge to do everything possible to squelch the disease.

When Sherith Perez first arrived at City of Hope six years ago, she had just had a mastectomy and was balding from intensive chemotherapy. Her immune system had been overwhelmed by cancer. Doctors in her hometown of Oxnard had discovered tumors in her left breast and two kinds of cancer in 18 lymph nodes. They suspected that cancer had spread to her lungs and liver as well.

"I was told I had four to 12 months to survive," recalls 52-year-old Perez. "For long-term survival, I did everything I could surgically."

She contacted City of Hope and received a number of phone calls in return, from a social worker, a former patient and several doctors.

When she visited the center, doctors said they might be able to offer her a cure. Perez agreed to be tested for 11 weeks, just to see if she would qualify to participate in a clinical study involving the use of a new chemical. Experimental treatments are not unusual at City of Hope, where 40 percent of all patients take part in innovative protocols.

"With everything the doctors had to offer, I felt I'd be taking a greater risk if I didn't take the treatment," said Perez, who underwent two bone-marrow transplants back to back and is now "completely cured." Since 1992, she has been taking tamoxifen, a maintenance chemotherapy drug with no side effects.

"I know it sounds really Zen, but it has been the most incredibly rewarding experience with such a profound effect on my family, friends and myself. It has made my life better and has made me a better person," she said.

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