Summer 2009: Of Note

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Winship Cancer Institute joins the nation’s NCI cancer centers.

Jack Kearse

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First in State

Winship is designated a National Cancer Institute Cancer Center

What an NCI Cancer Center means for Georgia

NCI cancer centers have become the model for research and treatment, translating laboratory findings into the next generation of therapies and cures.

Clinical trials developed and carried out at NCI cancer centers have resulted in cures for many childhood cancers, Hodgkin’s disease, testicular cancer, and leukemia, and improved treatments for solid tumor cancers including colon, lung, and breast.

Side effects from even the most intensive therapies have been reduced by NCI cancer centers’ work to refine treatments and reduce toxicity.

NCI cancer centers have been the site of key research discoveries, including cancer-related genes that promote or suppress tumors. Hundreds of genes have been identified, and this knowledge has been used in cancer prevention, detection, and treatment.

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Winship Cancer Institute

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By Mary J. Loftus

When facing multiple melanomas, Nell Phelps of Villa Rica had no doubt where she wanted to receive treatment—Emory’s Winship Cancer Institute (WCI).

“It was the first place I wanted to go,” says Phelps, eighty, who drives about forty-five miles each way to be seen at Winship. “My first surgery for melanoma was there in 1996, and it came back in 2005.”

To Phelps’s relief, her most recent test revealed no cancer. Previously, however, she had to visit Winship every three months, and had several melanomas removed. “The staff tries to do things to make it easier,” she says. “Since I live out of town, it was important to me to be able to schedule my blood work, oncologist, X-rays, and other treatments all on the same day.

“I was so happy to read in the newspaper that they got that designation as a cancer center,” Phelps adds.

In April, Winship became Georgia’s first National Cancer Institute (NCI) Cancer Center, a coveted designation that is expected to bring in more public and private research dollars and attract top doctors and scientists to Atlanta. “We are on the brink of great advances in cancer research, and our ability to translate those advances into therapy is significantly enhanced by the NCI designation,” says Fred Sanfilippo, executive vice president for health affairs.

Thirty-five thousand Georgians get cancer every year, according to Governor Sonny Perdue. “Through initiatives like the Georgia Cancer Coalition and the Georgia Research Alliance (GRA), we are working hard to eliminate this disease,” he said. “Winship has served as a model in establishing collaborative research programs and in working statewide to address the pressing issues related to treatment, education, and access to care for cancer patients.”

The NCI will give nearly $4.3 million to Winship during the next three years to expand its research into cancer’s causes and cures. Many clinical trials, experimental treatments, and new technologies are available only at the nation’s sixty-five NCI cancer centers. “This enables us to continue to develop research initiatives that will result in new therapies for patients throughout Georgia and beyond,” says Brian Leyland-Jones, WCI executive director and a GRA Eminent Scholar. “Robert Woodruff’s vision—that no one should have to leave Georgia to receive excellent cancer care—is alive and well in Winship.”

Emory has been steadily working for many years to receive an NCI designation, which it applied for some fifteen years ago but did not receive. Cancer centers must demonstrate the highest quality research, patient care, education, and community outreach.

In three years, the NCI will review Emory’s designation for a five-year renewal. Recently, Emory also was recognized as one of the top-fifty cancer centers in the country by U.S. News & World Report and received the Blue Cross Blue Shield Designation for Treatment of Rare and Complex Cancers.

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