Heroic Efforts in Houston September 1, 2017 – This column is a bit of a departure from our normal fare. Nevertheless, Front Line exists to inform you of important happenings in the lives of our members and patients. Hurricane Harvey certainly qualifies. In the past week, it has dumped an estimated 19 trillion gallons of rain on Texas. That’s more water than the contents of the Chesapeake Bay, and it’s enough to flood the entire state of Arizona a foot deep.

The devastation in Houston and the surrounding area is beyond stunning. More than 7,000 single-family homes have been lost to the flooding, and more than 124,000 were damaged. There are more than 23,000 Texans living in shelters. Schools, stores, highways, hospitals and, indeed, entire neighborhoods still sit under water.

We have a warm spot regarding Texas; our ties are there are long and strong. SWOG was founded in the Lone Star State in 1956, and we have 1,091 members at 31 institutions within its borders. At MD Anderson Cancer Center alone, we have 653 members. Over the years, thousands of Texans have joined our cancer trials.

MD Anderson, our founding institution, thankfully did not sustain major damage or lost power due to Harvey. Patients already checked into the center continued to get exceptional care, thanks to the 2,000 MD Anderson employees who took part in emergency “ride-out” teams. These doctors, nurses, and other workers stayed at the center to make sure that people being treated for cancer received the care, medicines, and meals they needed.

My hat is off to these “hurricane heroes” who willingly worked through disaster, separated from home and family, to keep their patients safe. One SWOG member, Dr. Adi Diab, walked three miles through water to attend to a melanoma patient on a clinical trial. His commitment, along with other members of his MD Anderson team, is chronicled in a news story by STAT. Read it here

My hat is also off to the hospitals and health care providers in Baton Rouge and other cities and towns near Houston that accepted MD Anderson patients for treatment this week.

Finally, my thoughts are with the SWOG operations office in San Antonio. Staff braved a lot of rain, and wicked winds, and kept our office open. Many operations staffers also volunteered to help with evacuation and clean up in San Antonio.

The cancer community has also rallied. Texas Oncology is connecting patients to emergency resources when they call 1-888-864-4226. The NCI Contact Center is assisting Texas patients at 1-800-4-CANCER. ASCO has listed steps cancer patients can take after the hurricane to protect their health at this website.

An MD Anderson poll this week shows that 40 percent of its 20,000 employees have been affected by Harvey. If you’d like to help, the Cooper Foundation has set up a relief fund for MD Anderson employees. Learn more here.

A variety of other organizations are helping, and they need support. I personally donated to the Houston SPCA. SWOG contributed to the Houston Food Bank. The Hope Foundation has extended its Impact Award deadline to members in the Houston area. If there is anything else that SWOG or Hope can do to help, please reach out. We need to keep our Texas family safe.

SWOG's new website launches in November, and you'll need to be sure you have proper credentials to log-in. Check for details.

Abstracts are coming due for the ASCO GI Cancers Symposium. Please send yours to SWOG Publications Manager Pat Arlauskas for processing no later than Sept. 13.