Scott Petinga, a former Marine, said that being diagnosed with cancer in 2004 changed the way he thought about and acted in life. One of his first bold moves was to launch his own business, marketing firm Akquracy, where he challenged himself and his employees to constantly think differently.

He later created the Think Different Foundation to support innovative ideas in the areas of housing and healthcare. The Think Different Foundation recently awarded $500,000 to two unique programs at the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center that embrace a unique approach to treating young adults with cancer.

One program that will benefit from the Think Different Foundation is AYA@USC, the adolescent and young adult cancer program at USC that was developed in collaboration with Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and LAC+USC Medical Center to address the need for a comprehensive oncology program for adolescents and young adults.

Adolescents and young adults have unique challenges that frequently lead to late diagnosis and inadequate therapy such as limited insurability, low enrollment in clinical trials, and limited awareness and access to services. AYA@USC, led by Stuart Siegel, MD, associate director for pediatric oncology at the cancer center and professor/vice chair of pediatrics at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, is one of only 10 U.S. programs aimed at improving survival rates of adolescents and young adults through research, treatment and education initiatives.

“I was 31 when I was diagnosed. I felt like I was stranded on a desert island. Alone, isolated,” Petinga said. “So when I learned about AYA from Dr. Siegel, I was elated to participate in moving the idea forward.”

The foundation also chose to support the testicular cancer research of Sia Daneshmand, MD, director of urologic oncology at the USC Institute of Urology. Testicular cancer is the most common form of cancer among males between 20 and 39. Although testicular cancer has a relatively high cure rate, concerns remain about long-term health and quality of life of survivors.

“Quite frankly, cancer of the testis is not mainstream and doesn’t receive it’s fair share of funding,” Petinga said.

Under the direction of Daneshmand, a renowned testis cancer expert, studies are underway to evaluate the quality of life in testicular cancer patients after treatment and to develop better protocols for patients and survivors.

After beating cancer, Petinga became a dedicated philanthropist. In addition to starting two foundations, The Think Different Foundation and Fairy Foundation, he is on the board of Caring Bridge, is marketing committee chairman for Angel Foundation and volunteers with Imerman Angels. He hopes his efforts will benefit others.

“In the blink of an eye, the world around us has and will continue to change,” Petinga said. “It’s now time to change the paradigm on how we treat patients — not only the disease itself but the quality of life after the initial medical journey. Survivorship is just as vital as curing the disease itself.”

— By Hope Hamashige, Sara Reeve and Les Dunseith