The Wistar Institute was founded in 1892 to conduct anatomical research and training and quickly evolved into a biomedical research facility. Throughout the 20th century, Wistar gained a pioneering reputation in animal model studies and vaccine development. In 1972, Wistar became an NCI-designated cancer center conducting basic research to understand the causes, treatment, and prevention of cancer.
The Wistar Institute Cancer Center’s scientists pursue research in three programs: Gene Expression and Regulation, Molecular and Cellular Oncogenesis, and Tumor Microenvironment and Metastasis.
The Gene Expression and Regulation program focuses on identifying genes and the genetic mechanisms involved in cancer. This comprehensive program combines the power of genetic studies in yeast and fruit flies with the sophisticated tools of biochemistry and structural biology. The program is known for its groundbreaking work in epigenetics.
The Molecular and Cellular Oncogenesis program encompasses the underlying processes of normal and malignant cell growth and differentiation. Members seek to understand the biological impact of specific molecular events associated with tumor formation and progression toward metastatic disease. Several member laboratories are studying large protein complexes and cellular machines, how cellular networks respond to different signaling pathways, and how changes in global patterns of gene expression – at the genetic and protein levels – influence normal and disease processes.
The Tumor Microenvironment and Metastasis program addresses basic questions about how the cells that surround a tumor play a role in its development, growth and spread, and to try to develop new means of attacking the cancer and preventing its spread by harnessing and repurposing the microenvironment that supports it. Understanding the tumor microenvironment holds great therapeutic potential. Researchers have had success in slowing the rate of cancer growth with targeted therapies, and Wistar investigators are advancing the basic science behind this approach.
Wistar science is also organized through collaborative research centers that support the work of the Wistar Cancer Center. The Wistar Institute Melanoma Research Center strives to understand the unique biology of melanoma in order to develop new therapies against the disease. It serves as a collaborative hub, bringing basic scientists, clinicians, the life sciences industry, and melanoma advocates together to save lives through research and development of new and better therapies.
Additional scientific centers of note at Wistar are the Center for Chemical Biology and Translational Medicine, the Center for Systems and Computational Biology, the Vaccine Center, the Robert A. Fox Structural Biology Center, and the Albert R. Taxin Brain Tumor Research Center.
Scientific collaboration is at the core of the Institute. It occurs both within the walls of Wistar and among the neighboring academic institutions in the Philadelphia community. Particularly notable is Wistar’s extensive collaboration on melanoma research with the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. This collaboration has brought biologists, immunologists, geneticists, oncologists, and surgeons together to develop novel approaches for diagnosis and treatment.
Since its inception, training the next generation of scientific investigators has been a vital part of the Institute’s mission. Wistar is committed to training doctoral students, postdoctoral fellows, and visiting scientists. Education at the Institute extends into the Philadelphia community, including science mentoring programs for high school students and a biotechnology training program for local community college students.
* This cancer center is one of seven cancer centers that only conduct laboratory research and do not provide patient care.
* This profile was provided by the Wistar Institute Cancer Center.