Where Cutting-Edge Science Meets Patient Care
With the opening of the new Mark O. Hatfield Clinical Center on the NIH campus, I can't help but think that this next-generation facility will be the site of new research breakthroughs, led in large part by researchers from the NCI Center for Cancer Research (CCR). CCR researchers working in the new clinical center will be at the forefront of the imaging revolution, for example. The recently established Molecular Imaging Program, headed by Dr. Peter Choyke, will be a comprehensive program that spans the discovery-development-delivery continuum. This program's multifaceted work will include developing imaging probes targeted to specific molecular events or pathways relevant to cancer and the development of novel diagnostic and delivery systems, and then testing these technologies, along with new imaging agents, in early phase trials at the clinical center.
The Hatfield Center also will be the setting of many other initiatives such as the efforts of the Urologic Oncology Branch (UOB), led by Dr. W. Marston Linehan, to attack kidney cancer at the genetic and molecular levels. This work follows more than two decades of discoveries by the Branch's researchers, including the identification of three genes - VHL, Met, and BHD - each related to a different type of kidney cancer. Researchers worldwide have been studying these genetic pathways, especially the VHL pathway, and in partnership with a small pharmaceutical company, UOB researchers have developed new molecular therapeutics that will be tested in early stage trials in the Hatfield Center. Importantly, these trials will incorporate vascular imaging and PET to immediately evaluate patient response to therapy.
The Hatfield Center will also support researchers in NCI's Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics who have been conducting long-range family studies to identify and track cancers with a hereditary basis. They have also been developing strategic partnerships within the molecular epidemiology community to further accelerate progress in this area.
The NCI trials will benefit from many of the Hatfield Center's attributes, including research labs just a few strides from patient beds where tissue samples can be quickly analyzed to assess issues such as biologic responses and molecular changes. Such instant analyses serve to further inform basic science and promote the discovery process while enhancing the real-time clinical decisions - creating the seamless bench-to-bedside-and-back approach that has been a cornerstone of NCI's intramural research program.
The NIH clinical center has also been an integral part of NCI's unsurpassed tradition of oncology education and training. Researchers who trained at NCI under world-class scientists such as Drs. Paul Carbone, Emil Frei, Emil Freireich, Vince DeVita, Mark Lippman, Bob Young, and Bruce Chabner have gone on to leadership positions in cancer centers across the country. Fellowship programs in the NCI Surgical Oncology and Dermatology Branches have produced winners of some of the most prestigious national research awards. Translational research courses for postdoctoral and clinical fellows will promote collaboration between basic and clinical scientists, providing instruction in cancer biology and treatment, metastasis, genetics, epidemiology, and identification of molecular targets, among other areas. And, we must never forget that these accomplishments could never have occurred without the selfless dedication of hundreds of nurses, technicians, and staff working as an integrated team.
The opening of the Hatfield Center is an exciting moment in the history of our nation's biomedical research enterprise. It's the beginning of a new chapter of NCI's research success and of hope for a brighter future where suffering and death from cancer is overcome by the steady march of biomedical progress.
Dr. Andrew C. von Eschenbach