MD Anderson Ranks First in Cancer Care
For the sixth time in the past eight years, MD Anderson is the No. 1 hospital in the nation for cancer care, according to the annual “Best Hospitals” survey published by U.S. News & World Report.
“This national ranking is a great point of pride among our employees and volunteers, one that we share with our patients, survivors and their families,” says John Mendelsohn, M.D., president of MD Anderson. “This year, with the national economic downturn and the impact of Hurricane Ike, the news is especially welcome as we redirect and recommit our resources to the many needs of those we serve.”
Improved access and short wait times for new patients seeking treatment at MD Anderson have been a primary focus of the institution, in addition to helping Galveston-area cancer patients in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike, preparing grant proposals for the new Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, seeking expanded research funding from the National Cancer Institute, and addressing the needs of a growing population of cancer survivors through three new pilot clinics for gynecologic, genitourinary and thyroid cancers.
MD Anderson has been ranked as one of the United States’ top two cancer hospitals since U.S.News & World Report began the survey in 1990. In addition to the 2009 top ranking for cancer, MD Anderson surpassed its subspecialty rankings of previous years with top listings in ear, nose and throat (2), urology (9), gynecology (12), digestive disorders (23) and diabetes and endocrine disorders (41).
The U.S. News & World Report “Best Hospitals” rankings are based on a reputation survey of board-certified physician specialists around the nation, nurse-to-patient ratios and certain technologies and services available to patients and the community.
Collaboration to Speed Clinical Trials, Personalized Cancer Care
Biopharmaceutical leader EMD Serono Inc. and MD Anderson have formed a strategic alliance to bring new drugs to patients faster. The agreement, set for three years with the potential to renew, is designed to provide MD Anderson with early insight into potential cancer treatments and to accelerate EMD Serono’s preclinical and early clinical research.
This nonexclusive alliance will draw on MD Anderson and EMD Serono, an affiliate of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, to design and conduct clinical trials for EMD Serono’s oncology product candidates. The collaboration brings together two leaders in the field of personalized medicine with a renewed commitment to translational research that will ensure the identification and clinical development of biomarkers to tailor cancer therapies to the needs of patients.
“The strategic alliance with EMD Serono allows us to collaborate with a leading biopharmaceutical organization to gain important, earlier insights into preclinical and clinical investigational compounds,” says Robert C. Bast Jr., M.D., vice president for translational research at MD Anderson.
In 2008, nearly 13,000 patients at MD Anderson participated in clinical trials exploring novel treatments, the largest such program in the nation. EMD Serono is evaluating its oncology clinical pipeline, along with key investigators at MD Anderson, to determine which Phase I clinical trials will benefit from the strategic alliance. The goal is to begin patient enrollment for selected trials in 2009.
New Chair of Clinical Cancer Prevention Arrives
Powel Brown, M.D., Ph.D., joined MD Anderson in September as chair of clinical cancer prevention. Brown replaces Ernest Hawk, M.D., who had served as chair ad interim since December 2007, when he joined MD Anderson as vice president and division head of cancer prevention.
Brown comes to MD Anderson from Baylor College of Medicine, where he specialized in breast cancer treatment and prevention, served on the faculty of the departments of medicine and molecular and cellular biology, led the cancer prevention program of the Dan L. Duncan Cancer Center and co-directed the college’s M.D.-Ph.D. program.
Brown obtained his undergraduate degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and earned his Ph.D. and M.D. from New York University. He completed his internal medicine residency at Duke University Medical Center and received training at the National Cancer Institute. He also served in the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, rising to the rank of commander.
Previously Brown was on the faculty of The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. He also co-directed the Cancer Prevention and Health Promotion Program at the San Antonio Cancer Institute.
Brown’s primary research interest is in assessing cancer risk and developing chemopreventive agents to reduce that risk.
He conducted research, for example, showing that retinoids, derived from vitamin A, help prevent breast cancer. These findings led to a clinical trial testing whether receptor-selective retinoids suppress breast cell growth among women at high risk of developing breast cancer.
Women Faculty Programs Leader Garners Recognition
For her accomplishments in academic leadership and her dedication to developing women leaders, Elizabeth Travis, Ph.D., associate vice president for women faculty programs at MD Anderson, is the recipient of the Association of American Medical Colleges 2009 Women in Medicine Leadership Development Award.
Trained as an experimental pathologist, Travis serves as the Mattie Allen Fair Professor in Cancer Research and professor of experimental radiation oncology and pulmonary medicine. She launched the organization Women in Radiation Research and spearheaded leadership development workshops for the 8,000-plus-member Women in Cancer Research, an organization of the American Association for Cancer Research. Travis is 2009-2010 chair of WCR.
A founding member of MD Anderson’s Women and Faculty Administrators Organization, Travis has advocated for women faculty for decades. Since the establishment of the women faculty programs office in 2007, she has mentored, led policy changes, created professional development programs and established and secured endowment for the Margaret L. Kripke Award, which recognizes contributions to the advancement and promotion of women in cancer research and cancer science. In addition, she edited and published “Legends and Legacies: Personal Journeys of Women Physicians and Scientists at MD Anderson Cancer Center.”
“I can think of no one who has brought more energy and dedication to promoting career opportunities for women in academic medicine and provided more enduring contributions on their behalf than Dr. Elizabeth Travis,” says Margaret L. Kripke, Ph.D., special adviser to the provost.
Three Embark on an Odyssey of Learning and Discovery
Each year promising young scientists vie for the coveted fellowships of MD Anderson’s
Odyssey Program, which sponsors outstanding postdoctoral fellows pursuing innovative cancer research at the institution.
Oliver Bogler, Ph.D., associate professor of neurosurgery research, directs the Odyssey Program, which this year received 42 applications from 26 departments. All were reviewed by a 13-member advisory committee led by Kelly Hunt, M.D., professor of surgical oncology.
Three new Odyssey Fellows joined the program in September:
• Sofie Claerhout, Ph.D., systems biology, whose adviser is Gordon Mills, M.D., Ph.D.
• Calley Hirsch, Ph.D., biochemistry and molecular biology, whose adviser is Sharon Dent, Ph.D.
• Marites Melancon, Ph.D., imaging physics, whose adviser is Jason Stafford, Ph.D.
Established in 2000, the Odyssey Program is funded by two endowments: the Theodore N. Law Endowment for Scientific Achievement, funded by the late Mrs. Theodore N. Law; and the Scientific Achievement Fund, created by donations from H-E-B, Houston Endowment Inc., the Kimberly-Clark Foundation and The Cockrell Foundation.
The Odyssey Program guides budding scientists toward successful, independent careers while helping maintain MD Anderson’s high standards in research-based patient care.
‘Making Cancer History’ Book Signing
Historian James S. Olson, Ph.D., signed his latest book, “Making Cancer History: Disease & Discovery at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center,” at a June reception at Tony’s restaurant in Houston. Donna and Tony Vallone, a Board of Visitors member, and guests enjoyed Olson’s unique perspective as a history professor at Sam Houston State University and as a cancer survivor who began treatments at MD Anderson almost 30 years ago.