Patricia and David Giuliani will never forget the day seven years ago when her new oncologist gently explained her diagnosis: mantle cell lymphoma.
“We were devastated to find out that MCL had a 5 percent survival rate,” David said.
Mantle cell lymphoma is indeed a bad actor among lymphomas—difficult to control and fast growing. As the couple worked to absorb the news, Patricia’s oncologist mentioned she worked closely with Dr. Oliver Press at Fred Hutch. It was a serendipitous moment for the Giulianis.
They were already long acquainted with Press, not as an extraordinary physician-researcher, but as their friend, one of the enthusiastic parents they had cheered alongside years ago when their sons played high school football together.
“We felt grateful and relieved to know we were being supported by someone who was not only a friend, but also one of the world’s experts in MCL,” they said.
Relapses, even among patients who have had transplants, are not uncommon, and along the way patients often also become resistant to chemotherapy.
“Twice I experienced what’s been described as being brought to the verge of death, and then brought back to life,” Patricia said. The MCL is now under permanent control after three occurrences and two stem cell transplants.
Patricia’s experience has shown the Giulianis that lab-to-bedside progress is being made. “We’ve been in the cancer world since 2005, long enough to see significant advancements,” David said. “Patricia is now taking drugs that were not even available when she was first diagnosed. It gives us a sense of encouragement that we’re on a moving ship, and we can help move it faster.”
But making scientific progress is expensive. It takes investment, familiar ground for an inventor like David.
Investors helped move forward his novel ideas—the Sonicare toothbrush and its skincare sibling, Clarisonic—turning fledgling devices into ubiquitous household products.
The engineer-turned-entrepreneur and his wife of 33 years hope to accelerate promising cancer research the same way. The David and Patricia Giuliani Family Foundation, including their children, Dan and Nicole, has pledged $1.5 million to challenge the attendees of the 37th annual Hutch Holiday Gala on Dec. 1.
The goal? Funding for their friend, immunotherapy pioneer Press [see his story on page 12], and his colleagues to enable them to combine a series of highly promising innovations born of the Hutchinson Center’s immunotherapy program to create safer and more effective T-cell therapy for lymphomas.
By fueling this breakthrough work, Gala donors will help directly improve survival and quality of life for thousands of patients with lymphomas.
“The more money we raise, the more money there is for research, and the more opportunities to find cures,” Patricia said.
It’s a personal battle, to be sure, but it’s also about the community making inroads against cancer. The Giulianis hope their gift will inspire others to support research.
“We are a generous and prosperous community in the Northwest. We apply our collective willpower and resources to make things happen,” David said. “How else does anything get done?
"We’re grateful to live near a major center of research and therapy for this very rare cancer, mantle cell lymphoma,” David said. “Since Ollie is one of the world leaders, it’s an amazing connection we have. It’s confidence building for us to contribute to the Hutch and also to Dr. Press’ work since he’s already been so successful in making groundbreaking discoveries.”
Spend even a short amount of time with the Giulianis and you’ll hear one word mentioned repeatedly: grateful. They’re grateful for their family, for Sabine (the German stem cell donor who saved Patricia’s life), and for the opportunity to propel research.
“I’m grateful every day for every day,” Patricia said. “And I’m incredibly grateful to the Hutch.”