Cancer Metastasis Research Center, led by Isaiah J. Fidler, D.V.M., Ph.D., is the nation’s leading research program focusing on developing new strategies for dealing with cancer metastasis. Metastasis, not the primary tumor, is the leading cause of cancer deaths.
2008 Update: For 40 years, Dr. Isaiah Fidler, director of the Cancer Metastasis Research Center, has led the field in metastasis research, making breakthrough discoveries in how and why cancer spreads from one part of the body to another. Now Dr. Fidler is focusing his personal research on brain metastasis, “an unbelievable burden to the world and a tough topic.” Every year there are about 165,000 cases of brain metastasis. The survival rate for these patients is generally months, not years, but only a few labs in the country study brain metastasis. We can all be proud that Dr. Fidler is taking on this challenge at MD Anderson.
Center for Cancer Immunology Research, led by Yong-Jun Liu, M.D., Ph.D., focuses on active and passive immune therapies for cancer. Such therapies are aimed at activating the patient’s immune system and creating potent anticancer vaccines to fight the development and progression of cancer.
2008 Update: The Center for Cancer Immunology Research, directed by Dr. Yong-Jun Liu, is investigating ways to get the immune system to kill tumors in the same way it kills bacteria and viruses. Using the center’s resources, scientists all across MD Anderson are working on either strengthening the body’s immune reaction to cancer or shutting down a cancer’s “bodyguards” so killer T cells can attack the tumor. And they are not doing this for just one kind of cancer. Dr. Liu listed six vaccines or immune-related treatments being developed for leukemia, melanoma, lymphoma and myeloma, prostate cancer, pediatric lymphoma, and cervical cancer.
Robert J. Kleberg, Jr., and Helen C. Kleberg Center for Molecular Markers, led by Gordon B. Mills, M.D., Ph.D., focuses on identification of molecular markers related to the genetic and molecular abnormalities in each patient’s cancer. These markers will make it possible to diagnose cancer earlier and improve the selection and monitoring of therapy for each patient.
2008 Update: Dr. Gordon Mills, director of the Kleberg Center for Molecular Markers, says that since there is no “one size fits all” cancer drug, personalized cancer medicine must be based on a study of the patient and the tumor. “Let the patient teach us what is important.” Using high-volume, low-cost technologies, they identify and evaluate changes in DNA, RNA and proteins to find out if and how those changes impact the effectiveness of a cancer treatment. Very few other places in the nation use this approach. Kleberg Center technology and resources also have helped MD Anderson researchers obtain more than $20 million in grants, and more than $10 million of sponsored research is underway.
Proton Therapy Center, led by James D. Cox, M.D., provides advanced radiation therapy while supporting an array of research and educational programs. Proton therapy is a precise, non-invasive treatment option for patients with certain types of cancer. The Proton Therapy Center makes appointments for patients by self-referral or physician referral. It is one of four proton beam treatment centers in the nation and one of only three hospital-based proton therapy centers.
2008 Update: Dr. Andrew K. Lee represented Dr. James Cox, director of the Proton Therapy Center. The technology and equipment involved in proton therapy are fascinating. An enormous treatment gantry weighing more than 190 tons can deliver protons with such precision and control that the tumor gets the high dose of radiation, not the tissues around it. But advanced equipment is only half the story. The other half is the team of medical and physics experts at the Proton Therapy Center who have treated more than 450 patients since May 2006. “Combine the best equipment with the best people in order to get the best results.” That’s an MD Anderson tradition that is proving true yet again at the Proton Therapy Center.
Center for Advanced Biomedical Imaging Research, led by Juri Gelovani, M.D., Ph.D., is a unique program that, when its new facility opens, will bring together the expertise researchers from GE, U.T. Health Science Center at Houston and MD Anderson to create new ways of diagnosing cancer and cardiac disease and selecting appropriate therapy. The scientists will utilize sophisticated probes to seek out cancer cells with specific molecular abnormalities and image them with advanced technologies to enable physicians to select appropriate treatments and determine the effectiveness of cancer therapy within hours or days (instead of many months).
2008 Update: Dr. Yuri Gelovani, director of the Center for Advanced Biomedical Imaging Research, reported that ground was broken for the 238,000-square-foot research building on April 10, 2007. When it opens in 2009, the building will be the nation’s largest academic facility for the research and production of imaging agents. Already, the imaging research team is collaborating with the Kleberg Center, the Center for Targeted Therapy, and the Center for Cancer Immunology Research to make significant advances. About 25 imaging agents are in the research and development pipeline, and six Phase I clinical trials that use a variety of imaging techniques and technologies are slated for the next two years.
Center for Targeted Therapy, led by Garth Powis, D.Phil., will focus on the discovery and development phases of drug development, taking advantage of new genetic and proteomic methodologies. This team will design drugs that function at the molecular level to attack defects in cancer cells and pre-cancerous cells.
2008 Update: The Center for Targeted Therapy leads the effort to coordinate all the stages of developing and testing new anti-cancer drugs. Dr. Garth Powis, director, showed how expert faculty and cutting-edge technology in four specialized areas of the center are helping MD Anderson investigators move their research discoveries through the process of cancer drug development. Currently, 11 drugs are being used in the clinic, and six are pending FDA approval. Five biotech companies have been formed. They are doing all this without having their own building yet. It will be exciting to see what they accomplish once they are in their own facility.
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