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Tressa Kirby

The “Lexus” of Cancer Treatment -- One Man’s Inspiring Drive to Survive

It’s not very uncommon for a fundraising event to raffle a luxury car, but the Lexus being raffled Saturday night at the 23rd annual Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center Gala has a story behind it that exemplifies the drive to survive.

In October of 2006, Suseel Kanagaratnam was diagnosed with stage IV colorectal cancer and he would begin a fight for his life. Stage IV means the cancer had spread to other organs internally leaving Suseel with a poor prognosis. After learning of his cancer diagnosis, his doctor delivered devastating news—he had less than six months to live.

Suseel took the grim news to his employer, Washington Area Lexus Dealers, to let them know he’d not be returning to work in favor of spending his remaining time with his family and friends. There, he received advice that changed his life once more. “The dealership has been involved with Lombardi for seven years. So, when I shared my news with my boss, General Manager Garry Whipkey, he strongly encouraged me go to Lombardi for a second opinion because he wanted me to seek the best treatment possible,” says Suseel.

Suseel took his boss’s advice and made an appointment at Lombardi with Dr. John Marshall, director of the Ruesch Center for the Cure of Gastrointestinal Cancers. Lombardi’s unique status as an NCI designated-Comprehensive Cancer Center meant Suseel had access the most advanced treatments including a cancer vaccine still in clinical trials. Suseel now had the “Lexus” of cancer treatment teams: Lombardi, Dr. Marshall, a cutting-edge therapy, and his own will to live.

“God always will choose strong ones for his Test then he makes the miracles, so it can be the reminder to others. He will never give me more than I can handle,” says Suseel of his diagnosis.

Suseel’s treatment involved arduous doses of chemotheraphy and radiation followed by surgery. After surgery, he enrolled in the vaccine study with Dr. Marshall. The hope was that the vaccine would boost Suseel’s immune system and allow it to attack the remaining cancer cells or any others that would come up. It appears, that’s exactly what happened and to his colleagues’ delight, he will be able to attend the Lombardi Gala with his co-workers and friends. “It’s been three years since my diagnosis,” says Suseel. “And, I’m thriving thanks in part to the clinical trials underway at Lombardi.”

Suseel will join many others as they “Celebrate Lombardi” through survivorship and recognize those who have fought and are fighting this ravaging disease.

The 23rd Lombardi Gala, “Celebrate Lombardi”, co-chaired by Howard B. Adler and Tanya Potter Adler, will be held at the Hilton Washington, at 1919 Connecticut Avenue NW, on Saturday November 7, 2009. The event includes silent auction featuring more than 250 fine items. The dinner and presentation will start at 8:00 pm in the International Ballroom, along with a raffle of a 2010 Lexus IS 250C courtesy of the Washington Area Lexus Dealers. Lexus is the exclusive automotive sponsor including Lindsay Lexus of Alexandria, Lexus of Rockville, Lexus of Silver Spring and Pohanka Lexus of Chantilly. American Airlines is the Official Airlines, Diageo the Champagne & Wine Sponsor; and Washington Life is the media sponsor.

Media are invited to attend but must RSVP to Tressa Iris Kirby at 202-687-8865 or For corporate sponsorship information and tickets starting at $400, contact Elena Jeannotte at Georgetown, 202-687-3866, or

About Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center
The Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, part of Georgetown University Medical Center and Georgetown University Hospital, seeks to improve the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of cancer through innovative basic and clinical research, patient care, community education and outreach, and the training of cancer specialists of the future. Lombardi is one of only 40 comprehensive cancer centers in the nation, as designated by the National Cancer Institute, and the only one in the Washington, DC, area. For more information, go to

About Georgetown University Medical Center
Georgetown University Medical Center is an internationally recognized academic medical center with a three-part mission of research, teaching and patient care (through Georgetown’s affiliation with MedStar Health). GUMC’s mission is carried out with a strong emphasis on public service and a dedication to the Catholic, Jesuit principle of cura personalis – or “care of the whole person.” The Medical Center includes the School of Medicine and the School of Nursing and Health Studies, both nationally ranked, the world-renowned Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Biomedical Graduate Research Organization (BGRO), home to 60 percent of the university’s sponsored research funding.


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