Although Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow and went back into his burrow to hibernate for 6 more weeks of winter, we, at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center are spending February preparing for a bright, sunny future, as we begin to see progress for a Future Without Cancer! During the last week of January, 26 members of our leadership met for a full day retreat in the Cooper Conference Center, to focus on developing a shared research vision for our Hillman Cancer Center. Utilizing the Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations & Results (SOAR) strategy, which is utilized throughout the business and non-profit sectors, we discussed topics that were previously identified as extremely important, when we surveyed a larger cross-section of Hillman investigators. The topics included how to further elevate the high-quality science that we already conduct, and make it even easier for basic and clinical investigators to collaborate on bench-to-bedside translational research. We are now in the process of prioritizing the recommendations that came out of the retreat, and forming small work groups to develop action plans for the items deemed of highest and immediate priority.
Also generating much excitement among our faculty and staff is the new Immune Transplant and Therapy Center (ITTC), a collaboration between UPMC and the University of Pittsburgh that launched on February 13 with $200 million of UPMC investment funding. Designed to spur innovation in treatments for cancer, as well as aging, donor-organ rejection, and autoimmune diseases, Hillman will directly benefit from the addition of new, state-of-the-art laboratory space and instrumentation in the Reidbord building just a few short blocks from our Shadyside facilities, and from the recruitment of top-level scientists. Of tremendous benefit to people diagnosed with cancer, however, will be the capability of our ITTC to speed up the time that it takes for our new discoveries to go through the therapeutics development process and become an FDA-approved, commercially available product. Combined with UPMC’s plans to build the transformational UPMC Hillman Cancer Hospital, which will have the most up-to-date digital technologies, there is no question in my mind that Hillman will soon be one of the most desirable destinations in the nation, if not the world, for talented young investigators who are looking to make their mark in basic, translational, clinical, and population-based cancer research.
I look forward to Spring’s actual arrival next month and to reporting on the progress and impacts of the new initiatives resulting from our vision-setting retreat. Additional information will be forthcoming, and requests for involvement of faculty, trainees, and staff who could not attend the retreat in person, since our goal to effect changes and influence our research activities and culture require involvement and shared efforts together in collaboration!Hillman Leaders at the start of the afternoon breakout session during the January 2018 Vision Setting Retreat.
Robert L. Ferris, MD, PhD