One of our critical missions as an NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center is to ensure that the most cutting-edge cancer therapies, many of which are developed in our own research laboratories, are available to patients throughout our growing clinical care network. Currently, over 500 active clinical trials are underway at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, both at our flagship hospital in Shadyside and across more than 60 community treatment centers in western Pennsylvania, Ohio, and New York. These trials are examining new and innovative methods for diagnosing, treating, and preventing cancer, and could provide patients with improved outcomes over “standard-of-care” approaches.
I recently had the opportunity to participate on a panel of experts to discuss best practices for conducting cancer clinical trials across community networks, at the annual meeting of the Association of American Cancer Institutes (AACI). This engaging dialogue raised important opportunities and challenges that are pertinent to cancer centers throughout the country, and also underscored, for me, the great advantage that we have in our vast and valuable Hillman patient care network. Through close collaboration with our community oncologists, we can provide patients with convenient access to breakthrough therapies, which they would not be able to receive outside of a clinical trial. We are working hard to continually expand and enhance our infrastructure and streamline our processes, to ensure that each and every patient in our region receives the most advanced treatment options available.
A clinical leader on a national scale, UPMC Hillman Cancer Center is one of only 30 centers across the country, and the only center in Pennsylvania, selected as a Lead Academic Participating Site (LAPS) within the National Clinical Trials Network (NCTN). This distinction (and financial support) from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) is awarded to centers that demonstrate “scientific leadership in the design and conduct of clinical trials,” and who are the most active participants in cooperative clinical research studies performed in collaboration with other cancer centers within the NCTN. UPMC Hillman Cancer Center was recently ranked 6th nationally for enrolling patients to innovative NCTN studies, and was fortunate to be able to initiate trials more quickly than many of the other NCTN locations. Our clinical leaders, Dr. Herbert Zeh (Hillman Associate Director for Clinical Investigation), Dr. Adam Brufsky (Hillman Associate Director for Translational Research), and Ms. Deidre Cleary (Hillman Director of Clinical Protocol and Data Management), are currently preparing our renewal application to secure six additional years of funding through our LAPS grant. Further demonstrating our strength in bringing cutting-edge therapies to our patients, UPMC Hillman Cancer Center is also one of only 10 centers across the country to receive NCI support for conducting early Phase I and Phase II clinical trials, under a grant led by Dr. Edward Chu (Hillman Deputy Director).
We look forward to building upon our clinical strengths and further solidifying our standing as an international leader in cancer care, as we innovate, create, and launch a transformational, state-of-the-art UPMC Hillman Cancer Hospital, scheduled to open in 2022. This advanced specialty care hospital will offer next-generation treatments in a patient-focused, technology-enhanced setting through a key collaboration with Microsoft. A “digital hospital of the future,” UPMC Hillman Cancer Hospital will leverage groundbreaking technologies to provide an enhanced patient experience unmatched by current standards.
It is indeed an exciting and pivotal time of progress for clinical trials and cancer care in our region. I look forward to updating you, in the future, on the status of our LAPS grant renewal and expansion efforts.
Robert L. Ferris, MD, PhD