Why and how did MD Anderson achieve this ranking?
Our consistent top-hospital designation (U.S. News & World Report’s annual “America’s Best Hospitals” survey) can be credited to nearly 70 years of leading innovation in cancer care and research. Our 800-plus physicians specialize in particular types of cancer and work together in multidisciplinary teams that include surgeons, medical oncologists, radiotherapists, pathologists and imaging specialists. Research expenditures now top $500 million annually. This investment returns huge payoffs, as many breakthroughs developed at MD Anderson have translated into standards of care that others follow worldwide.
Our track record for moving discoveries from lab to clinic is unmatched among cancer centers and universities. In the largest program of its kind in the world, MD Anderson offers clinical trials of new therapies to patients for whom standard therapy has not achieved cure or control of their cancer. Last year, more than 11,000 cancer patients enrolled in more than 1,000 clinical trials, from first-time studies of new agents to large randomized trials comparing combinations of drugs.
Our researchers have produced a number of novel compounds introduced into clinical trials, and several new MD Anderson-developed drugs have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. We also test hundreds of new cancer drugs and biologic agents developed by pharmaceutical companies around the globe. Overall, our research program is considered one of the world’s most productive efforts aimed solely at cancer.
MD Anderson yearly receives more funding from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) than any other cancer center and leads the nation in earning NCI’s highly competitive Specialized Programs of Research Excellence (SPORE) awards. We use these grants to advance translational research in leukemia, lymphoma, melanoma, and breast, prostate, lung, ovarian, pancreatic, genitourinary (bladder), head and neck, uterine and brain cancers.
In 2009, MD Anderson cared for more than 96,000 patients (including 30,000-plus new registrations) from throughout Texas, the nation and the world. We have collaborative academic arrangements and sister institution agreements with dozens of outstanding cancer centers worldwide. We are also reaching out to engage diverse populations in clinical studies that will enhance understanding and treatment of cancer.
Research Focus: Personalizing Cancer Therapies
Cancer is caused by the abnormal function of genes that control cell proliferation. About 300-400 of the 23,000 genes in our genomes regulate proliferation, and in a typical cancer, about half a dozen of these genes function abnormally. The cause may be inherited damage in these genes, or damage acquired from carcinogens such as chemicals in tobacco smoke.
We now have available new technologies that can detect these gene abnormalities in a cancer, and hundreds of new experimental drugs have been designed during the past few decades to target the molecular products of these genes. To take advantage of this tremendous progress, MD Anderson has created a groundbreaking Institute for Personalized Cancer Therapy in which laboratory scientists and clinical investigators are perfecting the methods for selecting the right treatment for the right patient, by determining what is wrong at the genetic and molecular level in each individual patient’s cancer. This research is a major component of MD Anderson’s largest-ever fundraising effort—Making Cancer History®: The Campaign to Transform Cancer Care—and it has extraordinary potential in advancing personalized cancer medicine.
To understand the critical need for this approach, imagine two patients. They have the same type of breast cancer at the same time. Not surprisingly, they receive the same treatment. This treatment is effective in one patient, but not the other—and the reason lies in the challenging nature of cancer itself, because some of the abnormally functioning genes that caused the breast cancers in these two patients are different.
“Clinical trials at MD Anderson have demonstrated that if patients are treated with experimental drugs designed to specifically target the products of abnormally functioning genes in their own cancer, they have an improved likelihood of benefiting from the treatment,” says President John Mendelsohn, M.D. But much more research is needed before this approach can become standard of care. And the challenge is compounded, as individual patients have genetic traits unrelated to the cancer that can influence disease progression and drug response. Developing treatment plans that address all variations for each patient is the goal of personalized cancer medicine. Based on the unique genetic profile of the patient and the patient’s tumor, this approach promises greater effectiveness, fewer side effects and exciting new strategies for early detection and prevention.
Generous charitable gifts help make all of this possible—contact us today and help change the future of cancer care.