By Michelle Le Beau, PhD
What will the future of cancer care be like, and how will we get there? The 2014 Annual Report of the University of Chicago Medicine Comprehensive Cancer Center offers a glimpse into the large and bold-scale initiatives that are ushering in a new era of personalized medicine.
This year, we were very saddened by the passing of one of our most influential scientists whose important discoveries transformed the way cancer is treated. Janet D. Rowley, MD, DSc, was the first scientist to identify a chromosomal translocation as the cause of leukemia and other cancers. Janet’s discoveries changed the way cancer was understood, opened the door to the development of drugs directed at the cancer-specific genetic abnormalities, and created a model that still drives cancer research. She was a remarkable woman who received countless awards and honors throughout her illustrious career.
As we remember Janet’s greatness as a legendary researcher, we take the opportunity to reflect on the Comprehensive Cancer Center’s impressive history of groundbreaking discoveries in cancer research. Many of these have had a profound impact on the way cancer is detected, diagnosed, treated, and prevented––either directly, or by laying the groundwork upon which current advancements were made possible.
The first section of the report, “Progress,” includes a timeline of discovery milestones, followed by descriptions of accomplishments we have made in the past year. Several large-scale initiatives are ongoing and hold promise to accelerate our progress in cancer research. First, we are harnessing the power of bioinformatics and genomic information to inform basic research and translate these findings to the clinic. We are also leveraging our strength in clinical trials to serve as a lead site for the new National Clinical Trials Network, allowing us to be able to test the newest cancer therapies and provide more options for our patients. Finally, we were among just a handful of institutions to receive a transformative gift that enables us to learn more about metastasis, the process by which cancer cells spread from a primary tumor to distant sites. This knowledge will help us develop better therapies to stop metastasis, which is the leading cause of cancer death.
In the middle section of our report, “Patients,” we summarize data about the cancer patients we have served in 2013, as well as compelling stories about cancer survivors who have benefitted from our first-class treatment. At all stages of research, it is important to remember that ultimately, it is the patients’ lives we are working hard to preserve.
The final section, “People,” describes the individuals who collectively contribute to our success––from our talented physician-scientists, to our dedicated fundraisers, passionate students, and the surrounding community. Cancer affects us all, so this section highlights the ways in which we work together in a concerted effort to reduce cancer’s devastating effects on society.
As we embark on the University of Chicago Campaign: Inquiry and Impact, it is important to keep in mind the discoveries being made today are making an impact on the future––one where we hope cancer is not a death sentence, but a disease that can be controlled or prevented. I offer my deepest thanks to all of our supporters who share in our vision.
The future of cancer care starts here.
The 2014 report is dedicated to the memory of Janet D. Rowley, MD, DSc, our beloved friend, colleague, and mentor.
Michelle Le Beau, PhD, is Director of the University of Chicago Medicine Comprehensive Cancer Center