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Published on November 30, 2021

Too Many People Trade Cancer for Heart Disease 

A new fund at Cone Health aims to prevent this unfortunately common occurrence.  

Cone Health will advance its research in the field of cardio-oncology with the help of the new Chick and Konni Dee Cardio-Oncology Program Development Fund. 

Cardio-oncology is the study of cardiotoxicity, heart problems caused by chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Heart problems caused by cancer treatments are surprisingly common. Between 5 and 15 percent of cancer patients will develop heart failure after surviving cancer, according to the University of Rochester Medical Center. Many cancer treatments—such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy—cause heart damage later in life. 

To better understand the issue, Cone Health launched the Chick and Konni Dee Cardio-Oncology Program Development Fund with a gift from Greensboro residents Chick and Constance “Konni” Dee.  

The fund will support Cone Health’s cardio-oncology research aimed at uncovering better ways to detect, monitor and treat the effects of cardiotoxicity. Cone Health launched one of the nation’s first cardio-oncology programs in 2013. This fund will help advance the industry-leading care and research happening in the health system, says outgoing Chief of Oncology Dr. Matt Manning.  

One aspect of that care is Cone Health’s use of deep inspiration breath to minimize heart damage in women with breast cancer. Radiation used in breast cancer treatment often has the potential to spill over into the heart, damaging it. With deep inspiration breath, women take a deep breath, filling the lungs with air. This increases the distance between the heart and the breast tumor—reducing radiation damage.  

“Cone Health has made many advances in cancer care over the past 40 years, and we are happy to have more survivors every year,” Manning said. “As we save more patients from cancer, it is important that we look ahead at other health issues and prevent devastating diseases like heart failure. With this generous gift from the Dees, Cone Health will raise awareness, expand services and continue to lead the region in cardio-oncology.” 

In 2015, the Dees committed to an estate gift to be split between the heart and vascular and oncology programs at Cone Health. Manning and Drs. Tom Stuckey, co-founder of the Lebauer-Brodie Center for Cardiovascular Research, and Gregg Taylor, a Cone Health Medical Group Heartcare Electrophysiologist, recommended the Dees’ gift create a fund to support the health system’s cardio-oncology work. 

The Chick and Konni Dee Cardio-Oncology Program Development Fund will pay physicians for the time they spend conducting cardio-oncology research. It will also be used to enhance care and collaboration between Cone Health’s heart and vascular and oncology services and to develop educational materials for the community. 

“We appreciate the generosity of the Dee family and all this additional funding will do to improve the care of our cancer patients,” Stuckey said. “This gift will allow Cone Health to be a national leader in treating some of the most complex cases and build on the ongoing efforts of The Advanced Heart Failure Clinic and Drs. Dan Bensimhon and Dalton McLean.” 

To contribute to other Cone Health philanthropy opportunities, visit conehealthphilanthropy.org