From March 1, 1944, when The University of Texas’ M.D. Anderson Hospital for Cancer Research admitted its first patient, a 57-year-old man with lymphoma, to last year when The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center served close to 135,000 patients, the institution has never slowed in its drive to advance cancer medicine through its patient care, research, prevention and education initiatives.
Much of that success is due to the bold, brilliant and dedicated faculty members and staff who have never stopped learning, evolving and bringing new approaches to the understanding and treatment of cancer. The MD Anderson team is committed to defeating cancer because it’s one of humanity’s most important pursuits.
Cancer also evolves. It changes to become resistant to medication. It’s also determined, evasive, extremely complex and, in its way, intelligent.
But our intelligence and ability to adapt to change is far greater. And in evolution and transition, there is opportunity.
As an institution, MD Anderson is evolving and changing with the current health care environment. This time of transformation has made us stronger, and in the past year we’ve continued to make significant progress toward our goal of ending cancer.
In its 75-year history, MD Anderson has experienced many changes on its way to becoming the premier cancer hospital in the nation.
Through strong strategic alliances, MD Anderson has created the nation’s leading drug discovery infrastructure, which has led to new therapies and numerous clinical trials for patients failing the current standard of care. The program has yielded major contracts with biopharmaceutical companies, enabled transformative agreements, catalyzed significant funding channels and created new companies that will advance our knowledge and provide long-term sources of revenue to support our mission. You’ll read stories about such groundbreaking work in drug development in the pages of the annual report.
We continue an unprecedented effort to more rapidly convert scientific discoveries into lifesaving advances through our Moon Shots Program™. Launched in 2012 with six Moon Shots™, the program has expanded to 13 multidisciplinary teams of cancer experts collaborating and innovating to stop close to 20 types of the disease, which collectively account for 63% of cancer deaths annually.
Of course, MD Anderson addresses all forms of cancer in its broad research portfolio and vast clinical enterprise. Through the Moon Shots’ APOLLO (Adaptive Patient-Oriented Longitudinal Learning and Optimization) platform, high-quality biopsies and blood samples are being collected from patients before, during and after treatment. Deep genomic and immune profile analysis of these longitudinally collected samples provides a “moving picture” of cancer’s adaptability and enables our researchers to understand why some cancers respond to or resist certain treatments such as immunotherapy. APOLLO provides an opportunity to learn from every patient and have every patient benefit from research. It is true precision medicine.
Over the next two years, such penetrating analysis will be conducted in thousands of tumor biopsies in more than 2,000 patients enrolled in 28 clinical trials for a number of cancers. The development of “liquid biopsies” holds the potential to replace tumor biopsies with blood-based profiling, providing a less invasive way to detect certain tumor mutations or changes in the immune cells that can point toward the best therapy for a specific person. A multi-year partnership recently was announced to make comprehensive liquid biopsy technology the standard of care in cancer treatment.
All of this massive molecular information will be integrated with clinical information from more than 250,000 patients and automatically imported into a big data warehouse dubbed the Translational Research Accelerator. This platform, which now houses the largest data set in the history of the field, empowers our scholarly efforts with a never- before-seen capacity to more quickly and efficiently bring about new insights and convert such discoveries into improved outcomes for patients. This historic advance is one of our finest examples of Making Cancer History.
Advances generated in MD Anderson’s labs, institutes and clinics, along with the partnerships and affiliations formed around the world through its Cancer Network® and other programs, have enabled the institution to influence the cancer care of one-third of the world’s population today. Meanwhile, our cancer prevention efforts, such as research, education and risk assessment, will help reduce the burden of the disease for future generations. Speaking of prevention, 2016 marked 27 years since past president Charles “Mickey” LeMaistre made MD Anderson smoke-free. We were all saddened by Dr. LeMaistre’s passing in January. He was a champion for cancer prevention and multidisciplinary care who drove innovation and positioned MD Anderson to be the world’s most impactful cancer center.
His commitment to forward-looking cancer prevention is found in the DNA of other institutional tobacco-control policies such as the EndTobacco™ program and tobacco-free hiring policy. MD Anderson’s expertise and leadership in prevention set an important example for the entire University of Texas System and helped pave the way for the system’s Eliminate Tobacco Use initiative. Because of that initiative, all 14 UT System institutions will be tobacco-free by June 1.
In September, nearly 54 years to the day after President John F. Kennedy inspired the nation to lead the world in innovation and space exploration with his “We choose to go the moon” speech at Rice University, Vice President Joe Biden shared a deeply personal message about his family’s battle with cancer and their experience with the brilliant team of physicians and nurses at MD Anderson.
He also emphasized ideas critical to both the Moon Shots Program and the national Cancer Moonshot initiative — increased collaboration, the importance of sharing data and the need for better access to clinical trials.
The vice president returned a few months later to join more than 2,000 guests, including dignitaries from around the world such as former President George H.W. Bush — a past Board of Visitors chair — at a stellar gala honoring MD Anderson’s 75th anniversary. During the celebration, the creation of the Beau Biden Chair for Brain Cancer Research was officially announced. It was part of an exciting week of events that raised close to $15 million to support our cancer-fighting efforts.
It’s philanthropic support such as this that makes our mission possible. Without your commitment, the institution wouldn’t be able to test the limits with high-impact, high-reward research projects. We couldn’t take aim at major breakthroughs in patient care and hope to dramatically reduce mortality and suffering sooner through the Moon Shots Program and its platforms.
Without you, we wouldn’t be the No. 1 cancer hospital in the nation and the most impactful cancer institution in the world as we look back over 75 years of Making Cancer History.
“Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.”