Cancer champions put research, service to work for a cure

Vision, mission, compassion drive local specialists to help patients and families

Most would agree Louisville’s own Muhammad Ali would be a pretty good example when it comes to knowing what makes a champion. Noted worldwide for his boxing skill and humanitarian work, Ali once said champions aren’t made in a gym but from something deep inside them: a desire, a dream, a vision.

In that context, it’s easy to see why the American Cancer Society (ACS) recently honored Arash Rezazadeh, M.D., and Leesa Mattingly, R.N., OCN, for their desire, dream and vision to end the pain and suffering caused by cancer. This fall, the ACS recognized these two local cancer specialists, along with eight other distinguished individuals, as 2017 Cure Champions.

Dr. Rezazadeh, a medical oncologist at Norton Cancer Institute, was singled out for his dedication to patients and staff, and his leading-edge research work. He recently served as a lead investigator for a clinical trial done at top cancer centers throughout the world to assess the use of targeted molecular therapy.

“This type of research is producing some of the most amazing responses to drug therapy I’ve witnessed during my oncology career,” said Dr. Rezazadeh, who has a special interest in prostate, bladder, kidney and testicular cancers.

Going above and beyond

For Louisville-area patient Rudy Jones, Dr. Rezazadeh’s top-level research was life-changing. After his cancer continued to spread beyond his bladder despite other forms of aggressive treatment, Jones saw remarkable results from taking part in an immunotherapy clinical trial.

In addition to its robust research work, Norton Cancer Institute provides a patient navigator program to serve patients and families. As a breast health navigator and certified oncology nurse, Leesa Mattingly consistently goes above and beyond for patients and their families. For example, she planned a special wedding at the institute complete with flowers, music and food so a patient unlikely to make his daughter’s wedding could walk her down the aisle and enjoy a traditional father-daughter dance.

Mattingly also works with numerous community events and fundraisers. Two favorite projects are Bike to Beat Cancer and Relay for Life.

During the ACS Rivalry Gala, which featured a good-natured athletics theme, Dr. Rezazadeh and Mattingly joined other Cure Champions as they were announced in starting lineup style. Each honoree walked the runway to spotlights and cheers. Linkin’ Bridge, 2016 finalists on NBC’s “America’s Got Talent,” provided music for the night.

Funds raised from the event support the ACS’s mission to prevent cancer, save lives and diminish suffering. This mission and the work of Cure Champions underscore another key message from Muhammad Ali: No victory is out of reach.


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