New Wilmot Cancer Center offers expanded care, research for cures

The University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) today celebrates the expansion of cancer care and research as it dedicates the new James P. Wilmot Cancer Center. The Center introduces leading-edge technology, greater access to multidisciplinary care, a new model for breast care, and more opportunities to receive tomorrow's therapies today.

The new building is the centerpiece of the Wilmot Cancer Center's five-year, $65 million plan for expansion and recruitment and is one of the cornerstones of the Medical Center's overall strategic plan for growth. The URMC cancer strategy includes recruiting more than two dozen new scientists and clinicians, expanding programs in lung, breast, prostate and colon cancers as well as lymphomas and leukemias, which are among the most frequent cancer diagnoses in the United States.

"Patient care is our number-one priority and the new facility allows us to expand our clinical care and our already strong translational research programs," said Richard I. Fisher, M.D., director of the Wilmot Cancer Center. "We are dedicated to achieving national leadership in cancer care and research. Our team is recognized for novel clinical and scientific research contributions that have shaped treatments and cures."

The Wilmot Cancer Center is a center of excellence at URMC and strengthens its reputation as a major resource for cancer care. Leaders have charted a steady increase in patients from throughout the state and northeast who are traveling to Wilmot for expert care and access to early clinical studies of new therapies not yet available at other centers.

The new facility, which will welcome patients starting on Monday, May 19, consolidates all outpatient cancer care and translational research programs into a single location. The four-story, 164,000-square-foot building is located at the corner of Crittenden Boulevard and East Drive, serving as the southeast anchor to the Medical Center complex.

"Cancer care and research are critical elements in the Medical Center's new strategic plan because of cancer's growing prevalence and the strength of clinical and scientific expertise that exists here," said URMC CEO Bradford C. Berk, M.D., Ph.D. "The new James P. Wilmot Cancer Center is a major step forward in the move to make URMC a nationally recognized center for progressive care and research."

Wilmot doctors see 10,000 patients each year, delivering more than 19,000 infusions and 40,000 radiation treatments. For each of the last five years, the center has seen double-digit increases in the number of patients it treats, which drove the need for expanded facilities. In addition, a shortage of modern research space has made it difficult to recruit and retain scientists.

"This day marks a new chapter in the University's history as a leader in progressive cancer treatment and research," said Joel Seligman, University of Rochester president. "The new home for the Wilmot Cancer Center will provide the venue for major leaps forward in patient care and translational research."

Two years in construction, the new Cancer Center was designed by Donald Blair & Partners Architects and SWBR Architects to provide patients with a healing environment surrounded by natural light, beautiful artwork and compassionate caregivers. Its elegant three-story, glass-enclosed atrium, named for the family of James P. Wilmot, serves as a focal point of the Center, both inside and out. An expanded, multi-media patient and family resource center provides education and support services along with a meditation area for quiet reflection.

The new facility nearly doubles the medical oncology clinical space - enabling caregivers to provide chemotherapy infusions for up to 46 patients at a time, a dramatic increase from the previous facility which accommodated only 29 patients at once. It also offers patients greater privacy, individual televisions and wireless computer access.

The ground-floor Radiation Oncology Department has added two more linear accelerators, equipment used to deliver radiation therapy. The expansion brings Wilmot's total number of accelerators to five, and will help to prevent delays in treatment. The Center has also invested more than $10 million to install the new Trilogy image-guided radiation therapy system, building its capability to destroy the tiniest tumors in delicate organs. The Trilogy system is faster and more powerful than other equipment and delivers radiation with pinpoint precision, using an on-board imaging system that can zero in on the size and location of a patient's tumor moments before each treatment.

This is the latest technological advance for Wilmot radiation therapy experts, who helped establish the medical field in the 1950s. In recent years, radiation oncologists developed ways to use stereotactic radiation, originally designed for brain tumors, to target tumors throughout the body - opening doors and extending life for many whose diseases were considered untreatable.

For people with breast problems, the new Comprehensive Breast Care Center brings together a treatment team to provide imaging tests, biopsies, pathology readings and a final diagnosis within 24 hours. The shortened time span is possible because the Center utilizes a team approach during every step from diagnosis to treatment. All members of the breast care team - surgeons, radiation and medical oncologists, diagnostic radiologists, pathologists, and nurses - are on-site and available to discuss treatment options if a malignancy is found.

The Comprehensive Breast Care Center is the first of its kind in upstate New York. Breast surgeon Kristin Skinner, M.D., developed a similar, successful program at New York University and is anxious to see this model eliminate the multiple appointments and time delay in getting a diagnosis.

There has been broad community support for the expansion of the James P. Wilmot Cancer Center and its comprehensive campaign to raise $42.5 million. James Ryan, Jr. and Judy Wilmot Linehan have led the campaign along with many volunteers.

Contributions came from private donors, corporations, foundations and supportive lawmakers who secured government funds.

Linehan co-chaired the campaign as part of her family's commitment to advancing cancer care and research. Her father, James P. Wilmot, established The James P. Wilmot Foundation, which funds ongoing fellowship training in cancer care and research.

The Wilmot family and its James P. Wilmot Foundation jump-started the campaign with personal leadership gifts totaling $5 million, and recently donated another $3 million toward the goal. John Wallis "Jack" Rowe, M.D., former chairman and CEO of Aetna and a 1970 graduate of the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, donated one of the single largest individual gifts of $5 million.

Other large donations came from the Davenport-Hatch Foundation, Harold and Joan Feinbloom, and Henry and Dorothy Hansen. The largest corporate gift to-date is $6 million from Excellus BlueCross BlueShield. Bausch & Lomb also made a major gift. The local Congressional delegation secured $6.75 million in federal funds.

Operations of the Wilmot Cancer center are expected to continue to grow, as cancer is generally a disease of the aging. Baby boomers are beginning to reach age 65, resulting in more jobs for health care and supportive positions. A report from the Center for Governmental Research estimates that the new Cancer Center will create 1,000 new jobs, both at the Medical Center and in the community, and increase the Center's regional impact to a total of 1,900 jobs with a payroll of $70 million. The 28-month construction phase, which was led by The Pike Company, alone supported an estimated 750 jobs and $30 million worth of payroll.

"This project will bring important advancements for people with cancer today and in the future, but it's also good business for the Rochester community," said campaign co-chair Ryan, of Ryco Management.

"We expect that creating one of the top cancer centers in the nation will bring more research funding, jobs and spin-off biotechnology businesses to Rochester. Health care and research are keys to our local economy and this campaign will continue that growth," Ryan said.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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