The Golden Era of Cancer Research and Care
When President Barack Obama called for a national moon shot to end cancer, the MD Anderson community and our patients cheered. For nearly 75 years, cancer has been our priority, and we are heartened to see it elevated to a true national priority.
At MD Anderson, our researchers and clinicians have moved us closer to meeting such a challenge, and we reinforced our commitment to doing so with the 2012 launch of our Moon Shots Program, an unprecedented effort to more rapidly convert scientific discoveries into lifesaving advances.
Our mission is clear. Our commitment is strong. And so is the support we receive, which is saving lives and accelerating progress in the years to come.
With a focus on patient care, research, prevention and education, we are discovering the causes of and cures for these devastating diseases. In the past year, we’ve made significant progress. We’re thinking big and creatively to make game-changing discoveries. We even expanded our program to 12 moons shots, adding six more of the most intractable cancers plaguing humanity for intensive focus. Our multidisciplinary teams, enabled by deep expertise and advanced technology, are ready to defeat our foe. And only three years after the launch, we’re already transitioning from an implementation phase to a results phase.
Giant leaps have been made to protect the future health of our children. Our cancer prevention and control platform, in collaboration with other organizations, continued its great work inspiring and educating legislators to enact valuable public health policies. During the 2015 Texas legislative session, this led to laws outlawing access to and use of e-cigarettes by minors, the lifting of a hard-to-believe prohibition on children taking sunscreen to school, and implementation of a statewide strategic plan for preventing HPV-associated cancers.
New clinical trials bring to our patients innovative approaches to targeted therapy and immunotherapy. We’ve launched 125 immuno-oncology trials across all major cancer types involving nearly 6,000 patients, and our state-of-the art immune system monitoring program — together with our big data framework — helps us understand who is helped by these drugs and why.
Speaking of immunotherapy, Jim Allison, Ph.D., a trailblazer in the field, who discovered a way to unleash the body’s immune system to attack cancer, received the Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award, the nation’s highest honor for clinical medical research. His findings led to the development of promising immunotherapy drugs that are benefiting patients around the world.
We’re using disruptive technologies and working smarter to more efficiently attack cancer on myriad fronts. We’ve developed the world’s most advanced data-generation, aggregation and analytics system to enable precision medicine for every patient. This platform, aptly named APOLLO for Adaptive Patient- Oriented Longitudinal Learning and Optimization, will revolutionize our ability to learn from each patient and dramatically accelerate translational research to a new level. Beyond our walls, our efforts to spread our knowledge and elevate the quality of care elsewhere continue with our development of a health care operating system that utilizes mobile devices, a secure cloud for data and IBM Watson cognitive computing.
Our ability to influence cancer care and share best practices throughout the world also is embodied in our Cancer Network, which continued to grow with the addition of our newest partner member, Baptist MD Anderson Cancer Center in Jacksonville, Florida, and three certified members, as well as the introduction of our first associate member, Hospital Israelita Albert Einstein in São Paulo, Brazil. With 20 Cancer Network members across the nation and around the world, we truly are making a difference in our collective fight to end cancer. These care-oriented collaborations join the 31 sister institutions in our Global Academic Program, which focuses on research and training opportunities in 23 countries.
As we prepare to celebrate MD Anderson’s 75th anniversary, we also must look back on the brilliant, innovative work of legendary faculty members such as Josh Fidler, D.V.M., Ph.D., and Emil Freireich, M.D., who celebrated his 50th year with the institution in 2015. Their work in understanding cancer metastasis and combination chemotherapy, respectively, is some of the most important in the war on cancer over the past 100 years. It has been an honor to serve as their colleague.
Today, our clinicians and researchers are working on tomorrow’s cancer care breakthroughs. Our clinical trials program — the world’s largest and most impactful — offers hope and help to patients who don’t respond to the current standard of care. The program’s more than 1,200 protocols demonstrate the direct line from research to clinical care, two of the pillars elevating this institution. Of note, MD Anderson is responsible for leading the trials for one-third of all new cancer treatments approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
The importance of research goes beyond clinical trials. Every day, in our Texas Medical Center labs and our research facilities in Bastrop County, scientists are learning what drives cancer, a complex and evasive disease. They’re hard at work to understand how cancer develops and grows, what fuels it and what its vulnerabilities may be. Those determinations are yielding pivotal discoveries, as evidenced by the more than 3,600 papers published by our faculty in scientific journals last year.
None of this would be possible without funding for research. This comes in many forms, such as tens of millions of dollars we have invested for shared core facilities, new granting mechanisms such as the Clark Fellows and Clinical Innovator Awards, an expanded Institutional Research Grant program and an ever-growing Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. A most recent example is a transformational $30 million gift established by the Andrew Sabin Family Fellowship Program that will fund the brilliant ideas of world-class cancer researchers who push the boundaries in our quest to end cancer and will ensure the support of our faculty for decades to come.
You’ll read more about these and other inroads in the war on cancer in the pages of this Annual Report, which features many of our clinicians, researchers and brave patients on the front lines. These stories will explain why the institution is again ranked as the nation’s No. 1 hospital for cancer care, and why Chancellor William McRaven describes MD Anderson as “the crown jewel” of The University of Texas System.
We are a family of 21,000 cancer fighters, made stronger by the commitment of our patients, their families and everyone joining us in this fight to end cancer. We’re on a mission. Together, we are Making Cancer History.