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Cedars-Sinai and Torrance Memorial Mark Four Years of Affiliation

Heart, Stroke and Cancer Patients Discuss How the Unique Collaboration Fosters Healing

This year marks the fourth anniversary of the affiliation between Cedars-Sinai and Torrance Memorial Medical Center, a partnership forged to bring greater coordination of leading-edge healthcare and services to patients throughout greater Los Angeles.

The collaboration, initially focused on cancer, heart disease and brain disorders, has made a profound difference in the lives of patients.

Jessie Savolt

Jessie Savolt will celebrate her seventh year with a new heart because the partnership between the Torrance Memorial Lundquist Lurie Cardiovascular Institute and the Smidt Heart Institute at Cedars-Sinai, which was in place before the affiliation, made a transplant possible.Jessie Savolt

"I've just been very fortunate between the two hospitals, with the different doctors that took care of me," Savolt said. "I'm here because of all of them, all their hard work."

Savolt spent decades battling debilitating fatigue and shortness of breath and two years on the transplant waiting list at another institution.

Then, in 2015, Torrance Memorial cardiologist Mark Lurie, MD, director of the hospital’s heart failure program contacted Jon Kobashigawa, MD, director of the Heart Transplant Program at Cedars-Sinai. He was willing to take her on right away in conjunction with colleagues at Torrance Memorial. Within three weeks, Savolt had a heart.

"The teamwork of our integrated heart failure programs, employing ever-evolving medical advances, managed her condition," said Lurie. "While heart failure patients are living longer, the time had come to find another option for Jessie."

Danny Ramzy, MD, vice chair of Innovation and director of Robotic & Minimally Invasive Cardiac Surgery in the Smidt Heart Institute and associate professor of Surgery at Cedars-Sinai, who performed Savolt’s transplant, said her case was too high-risk for many other medical centers.

"She had two previous heart operations and other issues," Ramzy said. "At Cedars-Sinai, we have some of the best cardiologists, cardiothoracic surgeons and ICU doctors in the world, and we have an intensive care unit specifically trained for post-transplant management. This allows us to take on these higher-risk patients."

The affiliation with Torrance Memorial brings these capabilities to patients in and around the Torrance area, Ramzy said.

Susan Sestich

Today, Susan Sestich is happily planning her daughter’s August wedding. But nearly two years ago, she suffered a massive stroke that almost ended her life.

Susan Sestich, left, with daughter Meagan SestichWhen Sestich collapsed at home and couldn’t move, her husband called 911 and insisted paramedics transport her to Torrance Memorial, a Comprehensive Stroke Center that partners with the telestroke team at Cedars-Sinai.

"If a clinician at Torrance Memorial believes one of their patients might be having an acute stroke, they activate their emergency stroke system," said Konrad Schlick, MD, assistant professor of Neurology and director of the Vascular Neurology Fellowship Program at Cedars-Sinai. "We jump on camera to see the patient and rapidly make an assessment."

Schlick, who was on call when Sestich was brought in, recognized that there was no blood flow on one side of Sestich's brain and that she needed immediate treatment. He contacted George So, MD, an interventional radiologist at Torrance Memorial. "Her kind of stroke is one of the most severe types that we treat, but our team is prepared for this kind of patient," So said.

Sestich was immediately given medication to dissolve the blood clots in her brain, and So used a tiny catheter guided through an artery in Sestich’s groin to remove those that remained. Three days later, she was discharged from the hospital with very few aftereffects.

"I can drive. I can ride a roller coaster. I was in Hawaii with my daughter and my son-in-law-to-be when he proposed," Sestich said. "I get to live my life fully and I’m so lucky to do it."

Kristen Enomoto

Kristen Enomoto is celebrating her defeat of stage 3 breast cancer with the help of a Cedars-Sinai Cancer clinical trial combined with treatment at the Torrance Memorial Hunt Cancer Institute.  

Kristen Enomoto A year ago, an ultrasound follow-up to a routine mammogram detected two noncancerous cysts in Enomoto’s left breast. Fortunately, Enomoto had been experiencing discomfort under her left arm and asked the technician to check that area as well.

The ultrasound and a biopsy confirmed that Enomoto had HER2-positive breast cancer that had spread to multiple lymph nodes. HER2, or human epidermal growth factor receptor 2, is a protein that promotes the growth of cancer cells.

Enomoto was facing 5 ½ months of chemotherapy, but Torrance Memorial breast cancer specialist David Chan, MD, suggested Enomoto enroll in a Cedars-Sinai clinical trial that let her complete chemotherapy in just three months.

In the study, Reva Basho, MD, co-director of the Women’s Cancer Program and assistant professor of Medicine at Cedars-Sinai, is testing a treatment plan that increases the body’s immune response against HER2-positive breast cancer with the addition of a checkpoint inhibitor.

"The goal is to engage the immune system to allow us to de-escalate the amount of chemotherapy that needs to be given to patients with curable cancers while improving their long-term outcomes," Basho said.

After 12 weeks of treatment, Enomoto had a mastectomy, and test results showed no active cancer remaining.

"We couldn’t prescribe this therapy outside of a clinical trial," Chan said. "But our partnership with Cedars-Sinai gives our patients the opportunity to participate in studies for potential new treatments that they wouldn’t be able to access otherwise."

Without Torrance Memorial’s physicians alerting her to Basho’s study, Enomoto said she wouldn’t have known about the opportunity. Being able to have her treatment take place close to home in Torrance was a big convenience at a difficult time.

"My result was excellent," Enomoto said. "The treatment essentially killed all the cancer, and without this partnership, I might not have received it."

Learn more on the Cedars-Sinai Blog: Video Allows Neurologists to See Stroke Patients ASAP