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New Cancer Center nears opening with gala event tonight
State-of-the-art facility boosts patient care while enhancing work environment for researchers


Ten years of careful planning culminate today in the unveiling of the new Stanford Cancer Center at a gala event. Housed on the first two floors of a new building adjacent to Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital, the center will consolidate the medical center’s cancer clinics and resources into a single structure. It opens its doors to patients March 1.

For cancer patients, the center signals a smoother hospital visit with less time spent traversing hospital corridors. For faculty, the new building offers a fertile environment for conversation, collaboration and clinical trials.

Faculty for the first time will be housed according to cancer specialty with surgeons, oncologists and radiologists who focus on a single type of cancer -- such as breast cancer, brain cancer or blood cancers -- interacting on a daily basis.

The open and airy architecture of the Stanford Cancer Center is designed with both the patient and health-care provider in mind. Researchers will be able to better communicate during clinical trials while patients will receive care in a consolidated area. Photo: Glen Matsumura/Courtesy of Medical Development

More than just a congenial space for faculty and a friendlier atmosphere for patients, the cancer center represents a launching pad for the School of Medicine’s effort to receive Comprehensive Cancer Center designation from the National Cancer Institute. The NCI grant application is in the works now, being ushered along by Karl Blume, MD, professor of medicine emeritus, until a new director takes over. The designation recognizes institutions that conduct programs in three areas: basic research, clinical care and prevention and control. They also provide outreach and education to their communities.

“Having this building shows a commitment on the part of the school to become a comprehensive cancer center,” said Branimir Sikic, MD, professor of medicine. The grant application requires that the funded facility have a significant focus on clinical trials. This need has lead to extensive changes and improvements in the Cancer Clinical Trials Office, directed by Sikic.

The CCTO will occupy a highly visible position in the new building -- near the kitchen and coffee machine. “It’s important that we’re there because it’s beneficial for people conducting the clinical trials to rub elbows. There’s more opportunity for cross-fertilization and a sense of community,” Sikic said.

Not only will trial leaders be rubbing elbows, but the research staff will have more opportunity to compare notes. The research nurses involved in clinical trials will all share a room and the clinical staff also will have joint office space.

Sikic thinks the new cancer center opens at a critical time in cancer research. “We are in an era of cancer research that is unparalleled. There is a confluence of knowledge that is just waiting for someone to put it to use,” he said. He hopes the new building and the cancer clinical trials office’s expanded role can help Stanford faculty be among the leaders in capitalizing on new research made possible by the human genome project and advances in genetics and protein research.

“A lot of the changes in the cancer clinical trials office are tied to the National Cancer Institute grant,” said Miriam Bischoff, associate director of the CCTO. Among other things, the grant requires that the school maintain databases to track trials and coordinate certain research resources.

Photos: Glen Matsumura/Courtesy of Medical Development

Mark Welton, MD, associate professor of surgery, is among those who have already benefited from NCI-fueled attention to clinical trials resources. “I think there will be new trials we can get going with their support,” he said. The office coordinates part- time research nurses, has recently purchased a new database for managing clinical trial data and helps coordinate the trials approval process. “By having those people with us in the new cancer center my nurse is free to conduct trials,” Welton said.

The CCTO also helps researchers complete regulatory applications, maintains an online list of cancer clinical trials at Stanford and leads the advisory committee that evaluates trials at Stanford for scientific merit. A CCTO survey of other comprehensive cancer centers suggests the NCI looks favorably on schools that conduct a scientific review before a trial goes through a school’s regulatory approval process.

Having more and better-run trials fulfills more than just the school’s goal of joining the existing 39 NCI-designated centers. It is also central to the school’s mission of translating research advances into medical treatments. Philip Pizzo, MD, dean of the School of Medicine, has specified translational medicine as a major goal for the school.

Welton pointed out that streamlining the current clinical trials office and having a state-of-the-art facility could also make Stanford a more appealing place for research collaborations.

“Having a good trials office in the new building can help us participate in national trials. It’s a tremendous opportunity,” he said. Welton has trials under way in cervical and anal cancer.

The new building will house other clinical care facilities on its third floor, which will open for patients at a later date.

What they’re saying about the Cancer Center

“There was a great need for this building, and the starting point was how to enhance patient care. From the moment you enter its doors you know you are in a place dedicated to healing and hope.” -- Martha Marsh, president and CEO of Stanford Hospital & Clinics

“The opening of the our new cancer center, along with our new Stanford Institute for Cancer/Stem Cell Biology and Medicine and our efforts to receive National Cancer Institute designation as a Comprehensive Cancer Center, affirm and enhance Stanford’s position among the nation’s premier cancer care providers.”-- Philip Pizzo, MD, dean of the School of Medicine

“We are establishing a new model of outpatient cancer care, based on our years of experience, to make it accessible and unique.”-- Richard Hoppe, MD, chair of the Department of Radiation Oncology and the Henry S. Kaplan-Harry Lebeson Professor of Cancer Biology

“Our goal is to harness the diverse intellectual and scientific resources in basic research and clinical programs to encourage new thinking and new approaches for the betterment of cancer patients” -- Branimir (Brandy) Sikic, MD, professor of oncology and director of Stanford’s Cancer Clinical Trials Office.

“The new center will enable surgeons to work even more closely with radiation and medical oncologists. That is a big advantage: We will be able to get new therapies to patients faster and get better results with tumors that are currently untreatable.” -- Jeffrey Norton, MD, professor of surgery and chief of the division of surgical oncology.

Correction: The phone number to RSVP is (866) 539-6796.

Work gets under way on new cancer center/outpatient surgical facility (11/5/01)

Cancer center progresses; ‘03 completion on track (7/24/02)

City architectural board to review Cancer Center plans at Thursday meeting (4/4/01)