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Spotlight on Research

Meeting after the forum were Dr. Douglas Reding (left), Ebenreiter family friend Richard Pamperin, Sue Ebenreiter and Sally Eben

​​​​​​​​​Dr. Reding holds new Ebenreiter Endowment; recent breakthroughs give hope.


Meeting after the forum were Dr. Douglas Reding (left), Ebenreiter family friend Richard Pamperin, Sue Ebenreiter and Sally Ebenreiter.

​On a night when an oncology research endowment holder was named, Marshfield Clinic celebrated the major advances in cancer treatment tied to research.

Douglas Reding, M.D., an oncologist/hematologist and cancer researcher, was named the first holder of the Tom and Sally Ebenreiter Distinguished Physician/Scientist Endowment in Oncology Research. (See sidebar story)

In addition, a forum of Marshfield Clinic oncology physician-researchers the same evening recognized the tremendous progress taking place in cancer research, including studies and drug trials taking place here at Marshfield Clinic.

"Fifty years ago, a cancer diagnosis was a death sentence. By the time I started here 38 years ago, the five-year survivor rate for breast cancer was still less than 75 percent," said William Hocking, M.D., retired Clinic oncologist who moderated the forum. "Today this key survivor rate is more than 90 percent. And testicular cancer, which used to be deadly, now has an 85 to 90 percent cure rate."

The adjuvant drug treatments that we now use so commonly after surgery did not even exist, Dr. Hocking said. Screening mammography for breast cancer was just being evaluated, and there were not any anti-nausea agents like we now have.

Pediatric Oncologist Michael McManus, M.D., noted that the chance for survival for a child diagnosed with certain types of leukemia was very close to zero in 1960. Now, that same five-year-old child would have at least an 85 percent chance of surviving. All of these things have happened because of research, he said.

"People wanted to do something about it and gave money to support research," he said. "It's very important to be at a medical center that has clinical trials through the Children's Oncology Group (COG)." This is a nationwide cooperative oncology group that develops and oversees treatment protocols for childhood cancers. COG is an essential component in providing the same level of care available at any children's cancer center in the country.

"I tell my patients and their families that they're not getting just my opinion, but a nationwide coordinated opinion," he said. "Do you want the opinion of just one doctor, or of 100 who focus every day on childhood cancers?"

Adedayo Onitilo, M.D., who was recently named Oncology service line leader for the entire Marshfield Clinic system, spoke about his role as a clinician and researcher.

"I try to plug my patients into my research projects whenever I can and take that extra step beyond just seeing patients," he said.  He noted that many people are only vaguely aware of the research conducted at the Clinic, although it is one of only three centers in the state engaged in this this type of research.

"Philanthropy for research is even more important than ever," Dr. Onitilo said. "That is why we all want to thank you for what you have done to support cancer research at Marshfield Clinic."

Dr. Reding has a long history of cancer research at the Clinic. One of his most notable achievements was his participation in the national Prostate, Lung, Colorectal and Ovarian Cancer Screening Trial (PLCO). The study helped establish national screening guidelines for prostate, colon, lung and ovarian cancer.

"We had 17,000 patients for the PLCO study and we recruited those individuals from a million letters we sent throughout Wisconsin," said Dr. Reding, who discussed the importance of cancer screening at the forum.

"When National Cancer Institute officials came to Marshfield for site visits, they marveled at the teamwork of the coordinators and how we could recruit people to come to a community of 20,000 people, compared to cities like Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Denver, to support this trial. Until then, they were skeptical that a rural clinic like ours could do that, but we've earned their respect."

Dr. Reding has also brought more than $20 million in research grants to the Clinic. The Ebenreiter Endowment will help him continue his successful research career.


Endowment helps pave way for more research

Tom and Sally Ebenreiter were clearly grateful for Tom's cancer care at Marshfield Clinic. To show their appreciation, they gave the lead gift to help establish the Tom and Sally Ebenreiter Distinguished Physician/Scientist Endowment in Oncology Research

Their generous gift, along with many others, helped the endowment reach the critical $1 million threshold to name the first holder of the endowment, Douglas Reding, M.D. Dr. Reding's selection was a delight to Sally Ebenreiter, who noted that Dr. Reding was her husband's oncologist.

The Ebenreiters were first treated at Marshfield Clinic more than 30 years ago and are long-time supporters of the Clinic who have made previous donations to support cancer research at Marshfield Clinic Research Institute​.

"It's amazing what they've accomplished here," Sally Ebenreiter said after a cancer forum on May 12. "Tom would have been impressed to hear this today." Her husband passed away in 2003. Mrs. Ebenreiter attended the forum with one of her three daughters, Sue, and long-time family friend, Richard Pamperin.​