University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI)


December 2011

The month of December brings the opportunity for reflection and introspection as we move toward the close of another successful year at the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI) and UPMC CancerCenter. This year saw challenges and accomplishment across the globe and Pittsburgh was no exception. Here are just a few of our highlights from 2011.

Celebrating 25 years of bridging research and cancer careWe recognized major landmarks: the 40th anniversary of the signing of the National Cancer Act, the 10th anniversary of the first report of a human genome on the national stage and the completion of our own UPCI 25th anniversary celebration. Throughout the year we remained steadfast in our commitment to our four pillars: research, clinical care, education and community service.

Great science is at the forefront of all we do. Our scientists have been active across the research spectrum. Highlights include:

  • Recognition of the role of the HMGB1 protein in mitochondrial integrity;
  • Use of a natural product to prevent prostate cancer in laboratory models;
  • The first report of genome sequencing in head and neck cancers, and
  • The completion of a trial testing a new type of vaccine against brain tumors.

New Doctor's at UPCI - Drs. Mark Socinski, Jan Drappatz and Jian-Min YuanSuch progress is not possible without great thinkers and leaders. We welcomed a number of such individuals to our community, including Dr. Mark Socinski, a noted lung cancer medical oncologist; neurooncologist Dr. Jan Drappatz, a brain tumor specialist; and Dr. Jian-Min Yuan, an experienced cancer epidemiologist. Several of our experts were honored for their work—individuals like international immunology expert, Dr. Theresa Whiteside, who received an honorary degree from Poznan University of Medical Sciences, Poland and Dr. Thomas Kensler, who received a 2011 Friendship Award from the People's Republic of China in recognition of nearly 20 years of collaborative research in liver cancer. We are tremendously fortunate to have such a talented and passionate community of cancer researchers and clinicians.

Great researchers need resources to support their work. We are delighted that our faculty members have been at the forefront in the quest for precious grant support, successfully competing nationally in 2011 for renewal of our Lung Cancer Specialized Program of Research Excellence, our consortium for the conduct of early phase clinical trials and our contract to underwrite preclinical studies of potential cancer agents to position them for clinical testing. Our investigators truly are working bench to bedside and back again.

Women's Cancer Research CenterNew teams have assembled to pursue the latest ideas, ranging from epigenetic therapies for lung and breast cancer to the potential for a traditional Chinese medicine to ameliorate side effects of chemotherapy in colon cancer patients. New centers will serve as a focal point for innovative team science—among them the Women's Cancer Research Center, a collaborative effort between the Magee Women's Research Institute and UPCI, and the Immunotransplantation Center in the Hillman Cancer Center to accelerate the development of cellular therapies.

Photo of True Beam at UPMC CancerCenter FacilityGreat research must translate into the best possible patient care. Over the last year we have continued to upgrade our facilities across our UPMC CancerCenter network—introducing TrueBeam technology for precision radiation therapy and "breaking ground" for the state of the art Mario Lemieux Center for Blood Cancers that will house the clinical services and research opportunities for hematologic malignancies and patients in a dedicated space in the Hillman Cancer Center. We have continued a major initiative on quality of care—uniting our centers through a hospital-based practice model and ensuring participation in a web-based clinical pathways program to bring the most up-to-date and evidence-based care and clinical trial opportunities to patients across our network. We are proud that we are in the final steps of certification through the national Quality Oncology Practice Initiative, the largest academic-community partnership in the U.S. to pursue this ambitious goal!

Such progress would not be possible without support from all corners of our community. We are so grateful to each and every donor and volunteer for their contribution. Special thanks to the many Pitt fraternity and sorority members who just completed a $500,000 campaign to fund lung cancer research. Hats off to the more than 1700 donors who together have contributed $1 million for our UPMC CancerCenter Patient Assistance Fund since 2005—dollars that continue to be distributed to more than 2000 cancer patients in need. Thanks also to the members of the Circle of Hope for their philanthropic leadership and dedication to advancing our mission.

Hillman Cancer CenterWhat about the future? The new year brings a special moment for the University of Pittsburgh as we begin the celebration of our 225th year. It also marks the 10th anniversary of the Shadyside cancer campus, anchored by the Hillman Cancer Center. There is no better time for us to work toward our goal of personalized cancer care where treatment for each patient is informed by the understanding of the unique molecular attributes of the cancer in that individual. Tangible evidence of our commitment to this goal will emerge in the Center for Innovative Science taking shape on the Shadyside campus, a facility that will house the next leaders with the best ideas in cancer, aging, and personalized medicine. Truly we are delivering on our promise to provide evidence-based and research driven care from the lab, to the clinic, to the community.

Best wishes for 2012 for all of us who are committed to a world without cancer.


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