National Cancer Institute NCI Cancer Bulletin: A Trusted Source for Cancer Research News
December 15, 2009 • Volume 6 / Number 24

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Cancer Center Profile

St. Jude Children's Research Hospital Comprehensive Cancer Center

Director: Dr. Michael B. Kastan • 262 Danny Thomas Place, Memphis, TN 38105
Phone: 901-595-3300 • Web site: http://www.stjude.org

Background

St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, TN. The St. Jude Children's Research Hospital is located in Memphis, TN.

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital was established by the late entertainer Danny Thomas to provide treatment for children affected by catastrophic diseases, regardless of their race, religion, or ability to pay. Beyond their treatment, he wanted to build a hospital that would find cures and ways to prevent their diseases. In the late 1950s, Mr. Thomas and more than 100 others who had joined his cause formed the American Lebanese Syrian Associated Charities (ALSAC), the fundraising organization for St. Jude, and the hospital opened its doors in 1962. At that time, the 10-year event-free survival rate for the most common form of childhood cancer, acute lymphoblastic leukemia, was just 4 percent.

St. Jude has grown immensely since then. Today it employs a staff of more than 3,300 and has a daily operation budget of $1.4 million. The hospital occupies 2.5 million square feet of clinical, research, and administrative space, and about 5,700 active patients are seen at St. Jude yearly, most of them treated on a continuing outpatient basis as part of ongoing research programs. Patients are referred by doctors from all 50 states, as well as other countries. Clinical and research efforts still focus on cancer, but also include acquired and inherited immunodeficiencies, sickle cell disease, infectious diseases, and genetic disorders in children.

In 1977 St. Jude received its first NCI Cancer Center Support Grant. The hospital has been continually funded by NCI every year since then. It received special designation in 2008 as a Comprehensive Cancer Center, due to the combined disciplines of basic, clinical, and population-based research, and today it is the only NCI-designated comprehensive cancer center that focuses solely on pediatric cancers.

Among its list of achievements, the hospital boasts a faculty with renowned clinical and research staff, including recipients of the Nobel Prize and Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award. And because of research at St. Jude, the survival rates for numerous pediatric cancers have vastly improved; today the 10-year event-free survival rate for patients at St. Jude who are treated for acute lymphoblastic leukemia is more than 90 percent.

Research

The Comprehensive Cancer Center at St. Jude includes several cross-disciplinary, multi-departmental programs dedicated to specific diseases (Hematological Malignancies and Neurobiology and Brain Tumor), conceptual themes (Signal Transduction and Molecular Oncology), or novel therapeutic approaches (Developmental Therapeutics for Solid Malignancies). The cancer center also includes a new Cancer Prevention and Control Program, which builds on the institution’s commitment to long-term follow-up of patients in the After Completion of Therapy Clinic.

Cancer Center faculty members conduct a broad spectrum of research, including basic science research, investigation of disease pathogenesis and drug resistance, translational research, behavioral and quality-of-life research, and therapeutic trials. These research programs depend upon shared resources that are supported by the NCI Cancer Center Grant at St. Jude, including animal resources, biostatistics, cell and tissue imaging, cytogenetics, flow cytometry and cell sorting, the Hartwell Center for Bioinformatics and Biotechnology, pharmacokinetics, protein production, vector development and production, transgenenic and gene-knockout research models, and a Molecular Clinical Trials Core Facility.

Patient Care

The center emphasizes interdisciplinary research aimed at understanding, preventing, and treating childhood cancers. Most of the more than 400 children who are treated for cancer each year are enrolled in disease-specific, frontline protocols, and they are followed long-term to track their outcomes as they enter adulthood.

The cancer center at St. Jude is the home site for several ongoing national cancer studies, including the Pediatric Preclinical Testing Program, the Childhood Cancer Survivors Study, and the Pediatric Brain Tumor Consortium, all of which are funded by NCI. 

Other Notable Programs

St. Jude recently completed an extensive expansion program that bolstered the hospital’s research and treatment efforts, including the nation’s only on-site pediatric research center facility that produces highly specialized treatments and vaccines; an expanded Department of Immunology; and a new Department of Chemical Biology and Therapeutics for the discovery of new drugs.

Also, the Chili’s Care Center at St. Jude integrates patient care with research on evolving computerized tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance (MR) technology for radiation therapy, while a state-of-the-art cyclotron enables St. Jude researchers to undertake many new positron emission tomography (PET) radiochemistry studies. These imaging techniques help researchers and clinicians evaluate new therapeutic approaches quickly to determine those that are most likely to be successful.

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