HICCC receives $18 million grant from the National Cancer Institute

Outstanding basic research, a growing focus on translating discoveries into treatments, and a dedication to patient care have earned the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center (HICCC) of Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital an $18 million, five-year Cancer Center Support Grant from the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The grant renews the center's status as one of only two NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers in New York City and one of only three in New York State.

"Both clinical and research programs at the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center have grown significantly in the past several years under the leadership of Dr. Stephen Emerson, and this grant recognizes our potential to change the way cancer is diagnosed, treated, and prevented," said Lee Goldman, MD, MPH, the Harold and Margaret Hatch Professor of the University and Dean of the Faculties of Health Sciences and Medicine at CUMC. "This latest renewal will ensure continuity of our current research, patient care, and educational programs as we continue to add leading cancer researchers and clinicians to our extremely talented and dedicated team."

"The Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center reflects our dedication to being a leader in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer," said Steven J. Corwin, MD, CEO of NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital. "There is still work to be done, and NCI funding helps to provide our doctors, nurses, and staff with the resources necessary to deliver the highest-quality, safest, and most patient-centered care. With this grant renewal, NewYork-Presbyterian, together with our doctors and Columbia University Medical Center, will be able to fulfill our commitment to transforming the full spectrum of cancer care in order to best serve patients and families facing a cancer diagnosis."

The HICCC's recent growth has included the recruitment of a number of prominent physicians and researchers (40 overall during the last NCI funding period), including the center's director, Stephen G. Emerson, MD, PhD, who joined in 2012. In its assessment, the NCI praised Dr. Emerson for his leadership, noting that the cancer center is on a trajectory to achieve exemplary results under his guidance.

"We are thrilled to be recognized once again as an Outstanding Comprehensive Cancer Center by the National Cancer Institute." said Dr. Emerson, the Clyde '56 and Helen Wu Professor of Immunology and professor of microbiology and immunology. "The national review team rated the HICCC as outstanding or exceptional in almost every area. This distinction recognizes and endorses the work of literally thousands of scientists, clinicians, educators and administrators for the fight against cancer."

Associate director Gary Schwartz, MD, joined the center earlier this year as chief of hematology/oncology and has been spearheading the expansion of clinical research and patient care. Dr. Schwartz, who came from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC), followed a team of five blood-cancer experts led by Joseph Jurcic, MD, who left MSKCC to join NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia in 2013. In 2012 Suzanne Lentzsch, MD, joined the medical center as the director of the Multiple Myeloma and Amyloidosis Service and Markus Mapara, MD, PhD, joined to lead the medical center's growing Blood and Marrow Transplantation Program. Andrew Kung, MD, PhD, developer of the new transformative Center for Translational Therapeutics, joined in 2012 as chief of pediatric hematology/oncology. In 2011 Andrew Lassman, MD, became chief of neuro-oncology and medical director of the cancer center's Clinical Protocol Data Management Office. Major recruits such as these were made possible in part by a $40 million donation in 2012 from benefactors Herbert and Florence Irving and previous National Institutes of Health (NIH) and NCI grants.

The HICCC has more than 250 members drawn from six Columbia schools, 12 core facilities, and eight research programs. The cancer center's investigators currently hold more than $120 million in NIH and NCI research grants. The productivity of its programs is reflected in the 3,000 plus research publications authored by its members in the last NCI funding cycle. Some 33 percent of these papers are co-authored by investigators across different programs and laboratories, demonstrating the cancer center's strong culture of teamwork and interdisciplinary thinking.

Among the center's recent research successes are: the work of the Cancer Regulatory Networks Program, led by Jan Kitajewski, PhD, and Andrea Califano, Dr, to map genes that work synergistically to drive aggressive forms of cancer; the investigations of the Breast Cancer Program, led by Dawn Hershman, MD, to characterize short- and long-term risks associated with standard breast cancer treatment; the research of the multidisciplinary neuro-oncology team, led by Jeffrey Bruce, MD, on brain-tumor systems biology, genetics, cell biology, and therapy; and the extensive collaborative work between clinicians and basic scientists to identify drug targets for leukemia.

New patient-care facilities include the Irving Radiation Oncology Center, which opened in September 2013; infusion centers at both the NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia campus in Washington Heights and ColumbiaDoctors Midtown, at 51 W. 51st St.; and the inpatient Irving Bone Marrow Transplant Unit, which opened in April 2014. HICCC physicians diagnosed and treated more than 3,500 new cancer cases last year. The center provides its cancer patients with access to some 200 ongoing clinical trials.

Charles B. Rangel, U.S. Representative for New York's 13th Congressional District, said, "I applaud the recent announcement by the National Cancer Institute that the HICCC will receive an $18 million grant over the next five years. This significant investment reflects the HICCC's commitment to finding a cure for cancer and providing outstanding patient care. I would especially like to thank the dedicated medical team and support staff at HICCC for making such a difference in the lives of those affected by cancer."


The Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center


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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