Stanford Cancer Institute News

Spring 2018

Photo by Drew Altizer

From left: Tom Hanks; Ellie Guardino, MD, PhD; Rita Wilson; and Jonathan Berek, MD, MMS.

Legacy of Hope

A Tribute to Ellie Guardino, MD, PhD

Last fall’s ninth annual Under One Umbrella luncheon event to benefit the Stanford Women’s Cancer Center paid a particularly moving and meaningful tribute to Ellie Guardino, MD, PhD.

After completing an oncology fellowship at Stanford, Dr. Guardino worked in the lab of Ronald Levy, MD, the Robert K. and Helen K. Summy Professor of Medicine and SCI member, developing a vaccine program for breast cancer and designing Phase 1-2 clinical trials using novel drug combinations. She became a pioneer in cancer immunotherapy, specializing in breast cancer at the Stanford Women’s Cancer Center.

While most oncologists genuinely understand and empathize with their patients’ struggles during diagnosis and treatment, Dr. Guardino shares first-hand experience. In 2008, she was diagnosed with melanoma, yet she relentlessly pursues her life goals, helping to advance cancer treatment for her patients and the legions of others who have benefitted from her research.

Midway through her successful career as a faculty member at Stanford, she decided to move to Genentech/Roche because she was eager to expedite the approval process for cancer treatments and prevention techniques that were being developed within the industry environment. At Genentech/Roche, Dr. Guardino’s Phase 3 clinical work facilitated the FDA approval of several transformative drugs for early stage and advanced breast cancer. Her efforts improved patient access to breast cancer therapies worldwide.

Dr. Guardino’s melanoma has metastasized, but she continues her tireless work to secure funding and approval for the next breast cancer drug trial. Her commitment to these activities, and caring for patients, is what drives her.

Famed actor Tom Hanks, master of ceremonies for the Under One Umbrella luncheon, cited Dr.

Guardino’s grit and determination as he championed all the women who have survived cancer, including his wife, actress and singer Rita Wilson, who sang and performed with her band for the nearly 400 supporters at the event.

“Legacy of Hope—Nothing is Worth More Than This Day,” a documentary film about Dr. Guardino, directed by Jonathan Berek, MD, MMS, Director of the Stanford Women’s Cancer Center and SCI Scientific Advisor, was shown during the luncheon.

The film can be viewed online at

In the film Dr. Guardino says: “We’ve been given a gift, don’t waste it. Wake up in the morning, look and see what you can do, what you can give, and enjoy the day. Be who you are, love who you are, and have hope and faith. I think there’s a lot of good to come.”

In honor of that spirit, the Under One Umbrella organizing committee announced the establishment of the Ellie Guardino Research Fund. Dr. Guardino recalled the support she received early on in her career and wants the new fund to support talented cancer physician-scientists as they make a long-term commitment to the research that is essential for understanding, preventing, and curing cancer. This new fund will support innovative cancer research grants and early career fellows as they pursue new treatments for the benefit of cancer patients around the world.