Legendary rockers Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend of the Who say they owe much of their musical success to teenagers.
In a heartfelt repayment of that debt, the two today announced the launch of the UCLA Daltrey/Townshend Teen & Young Adult Cancer Program, which will serve teens and young adult cancer patients at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center.
The new program — the first of its kind in the United States — will build on the previous successful efforts of the Teenage Cancer Trust, which has helped fund 19 special teen cancer units in the United Kingdom.
The vision of the UCLA Daltrey/Townshend Teen & Young Adult Cancer Program is to ensure that every young person receives the best possible care and professional support to help them meet the physical and emotional challenges of a cancer diagnosis. The belief is that teenagers and young adults shouldn't stop enjoying their youth just because they have cancer.
"At a time when your body is changing, your social life is everything and you're still trying to figure out who you are, getting cancer can seem like an impossible blow to take," Daltrey said.
Often, when hospitalization is required for teens with cancer, they are placed in a pediatric unit or in an adult oncology unit filled primarily with elderly patients. The UCLA Daltrey/Townshend Teen & Young Adult Cancer Program's special hospital unit will be a comforting environment where young people with cancer are treated together and housed in adjoined patient rooms around a common lounge so they can provide emotional support for each other. The units are designed to provide, as closely as possible, a normal life, helping the youngsters cope with grueling treatments and long hospital stays.
Rock icon Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin, who has been closely involved with the program in the U.K., has also lent his support to the new UCLA program.
"We hope to bring the success of the Teenage Cancer Trust program in the U.K. to this inaugural program at UCLA," Plant said. "The caring and support the program provides have made a huge difference in the lives of many teens and young adults who are battling cancer."
In July of this year, a team of UCLA pediatric and medical oncologists, child life specialists, nurses, psychologists, and several young adult cancer survivors traveled to the U.K. to visit and train with established experts from the Teenage Cancer Trust program, in preparation for establishing the first American program at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center.
"We feel confident that this historic partnership and the launch of the first Daltrey/Townshend Teen & Young Adult Cancer Program in America will establish a more truly healing environment for our adolescent patients and set the stage for an expansion of the program to medical institutions across the United States," said Dr. David Feinberg, CEO of the UCLA Health and associate vice chancellor for health sciences.
Under Feinberg's leadership, UCLA is exploring an early expansion of the program to teens and young adults receiving in-patient cancer care at Santa Monica–UCLA Medical Center and Orthopaedic Hospital and out-patient care at UCLA Medical Plaza.
Dr. Jacqueline Casillas, who will head the program at UCLA, led the delegation that visited the U.K. centers.
"We were very impressed during our visit and witnessed firsthand the positive impact that the U.K. Teenage Cancer Trust units have on the lives of young people affected by cancer," said Casillas, an associate professor of pediatrics. "Our UCLA multidisciplinary team returned from the trip energized and enthusiastic to begin developing our own specialized unit for teens and young adults. Our goal for the UCLA Daltrey/Townshend Teen & Young Adult Cancer Program is to lead the movement of improving outcomes, quality of life and quality of care for teens and young adults whose lives have been touched by cancer.
"The specialized program within the UCLA Health will focus on the care of the whole person, including their medical, emotional and social needs, in a nurturing, unique environment. The program will be tailored to meet their individual needs throughout their cancer journey, from diagnosis to treatment and into survivorship. It will also bring young people together so they can be teens and young adults first and foremost, enabling them to have their voices heard and to see the faces of other young people in the setting of cancer care."
The UCLA Daltrey/Townshend Teen & Young Adult Cancer Program will be supported by Who Cares, a fundraising initiative for fans of the Who, started so that the band could respond quickly to charitable causes. Through Who Cares, Daltrey and Townshend have helped raise millions of dollars with a series of all-star concerts that have grown into one of the most highly revered and anticipated annual music events in the world.
Two linked events, today and Nov. 5, will help raise funds for UCLA's new program. In addition, a portion of each ticket sale from Daltrey's current "Tommy" tour in Canada and the U.S. will be donated to the UCLA Teen & Young Adult Cancer Program through the Who Cares organization. For more information, visit www.uclahealth.org/rockevent.
"We believe that teenagers have a much better chance in their fight against cancer if they are treated by experts specializing in their care in a compassionate environment tailored to their needs," Daltrey said.
"I hope that our fans will really get behind Who Cares and do their bit to make a difference to young people living with cancer," he said. "We are grateful to UCLA for helping bring the treatment successes we've made with young people in the U.K. to teens in America."
The UCLA Health has for more than half a century provided the best in health care and the latest in medical technology to the people of Los Angeles and the world. Comprised of Ronald Reagan UCLA Health - Santa Monica Medical Center–UCLA Medical Center and Orthopaedic Hospital, the Resnick Neuropsychiatric Hospital at UCLA, UCLA Mattel Children's Hospital and the UCLA Medical Group, with its wide-reaching system of primary care and specialty care offices throughout the region, the UCLA Health is among the most comprehensive and advanced health care systems in the world.