Dear Friends and Colleagues,
As we look forward with anticipation to new opportunities for progress, I'd like to take a moment to reflect on the exceptional growth and accomplishments we realized in 2015.
Every day we renew our dedication to discovering new therapeutic approaches by translating our interdisciplinary basic science and clinical research into superb personalized, patient-centered care. Lurie Cancer Center, one of only two National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers in Illinois, has experienced an increase in ranking and NCI funding over the past year, and we're proud that our cancer program was once again ranked first in Illinois and Chicago by U.S. News & World Report.
The growth of Northwestern Medicine over the past year has been a catalyst for these achievements and helped to fuel the efforts of our physicians and scientists, spanning our mission areas of education, research, patient care and outreach to the communities we serve. Through the Clinical Cancer Center Executive Council, Lurie Cancer Center is leading efforts to increase collaboration and maximize impact across the expanding health system.
We are grateful for the support of our institutional partners, and congratulate our faculty and staff for their compelling accomplishments this past year — but our work is not yet done. Chicago is a world-class city and it deserves a world-class cancer center providing access to state-of-the-art research and treatment.
Every researcher, physician and caregiver at Lurie Cancer Center shares our commitment to continuous improvement and a sense of urgency to achieve the best possible outcomes for our patients. With that in mind, I'd like to highlight a few of the past year's notable activities and achievements.
Leonidas Platanias, MD, PhD
Director, Lurie Cancer Center
Leonidas Platanias, MD, PhD was appointed Director in October 2014. Since then, a number of changes and new leadership appointments have helped advance the mission of Lurie Cancer Center.
Kathleen J. Green, PhD
Associate Director, Basic Sciences Research
Kathleen Green, PhD, was named Associate Director for Basic Sciences Research. Since assuming the role, Dr. Green has reorganized Lurie Cancer Center's research programs. She recently received approval from the National Cancer Institute and Lurie Cancer Center's External Advisory Board to execute her organizational recommendations.
Milan Mrksich, PhD
Associate Director, Research Technology and Infrastructure
Milan Mrksich, PhD, was appointed Associate Director for Research Technology and Infrastructure, a new role dedicated to oversight of Lurie Cancer Center’s 16 shared resource facilities and to development of innovative research technologies.
Massimo Cristofanilli, MD
Associate Director, Precision Medicine and Translational Research
Massimo Cristofanilli, MD, was appointed Associate Director for Precision Medicine and Translational Research and leads the newly launched Lurie Cancer Center OncoSET program.
Aleksandar Zafirovski, MBA
Associate Director, Administration
Aleksandar Zafirovski, MBA, was named Associate Director for Administration. He is responsible for overall administrative operations and serves as a key contributor to Lurie Cancer Center's strategic direction and policies.
Jeffrey Wayne, MD
Associate Director, Clinical Affairs
Jeffrey Wayne, MD, newly appointed Associate Director for Clinical Affairs, has a major role in ensuring that outpatient Clinical Cancer Center facilities and programs are fully integrated with and support the research and education missions of Lurie Cancer Center.
Sarki A. Abdulkadir, MD, PhD
Co-Director, International Relations
Sarki Abdulkadir, MD, PhD, was named Director of International Relations. In this strategic role, he leads efforts to expand global alliances and partnerships.
Lifang Hou, MD, PhD
Co-Director, International Relations
Lifang Hou, MD, PhD, newly appointed Co-Director of International Relations, works in partnership with Dr. Abdulkadir. Her expertise in international health strengthens Lurie Cancer Center's global health initiatives.
William Gradishar, MD
System Lead for Medical Oncology
William Gradishar, MD, was named System Lead for Medical Oncology and Deputy Chief, Division of Hematology/Oncology. In these new roles, he will coordinate medical oncology services within Lurie Cancer Center and with Northwestern Medicine's affiliated care sites.
Al Benson III, MD (Cooperative Groups), David Cella, PhD (Prevention and Control Research), John Crispino, PhD (Education and Training), and Alexis Thompson, MD (Equity and Minority Health) will continue in their existing roles as Associate Directors for Lurie Cancer Center.
Lurie Cancer Center's research programs are structured around members' strengths which fosters interdisciplinary coordination and collaboration. Newly appointed leaders within the research divisions include:
Lurie Cancer Center's faculty is comprised of clinicians and researchers from Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and other academic units. Together, they bring their combined knowledge and expertise in basic, clinical, and translational research directly to patients at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, and Jesse Brown VA Medical Center.
A culture of collaboration and discovery attracts highly regarded clinicians and scientists from around the world. In 2015, these top minds in cancer research and treatment were recruited and joined Lurie Cancer Center:
Scientists at Lurie Cancer Center conduct basic, clinical, prevention and control, behavioral and population-based investigations along with interactive research that bridges these scientific areas. The caliber of these efforts enables Lurie Cancer Center to maintain its National Cancer Institute (NCI) designation as one of only 45 Comprehensive Cancer Centers in the nation.
Lurie Cancer Center's approximately 300 members are organized into nine formal research programs: Cancer Cell Biology; Tumor Invasion Metastasis and Angiogeneis; Signal Transduction in Cancer; Cancer and Physical Sciences; Cancer Prevention; Cancer Control and Survivorship; Women's Cancer Program; Translational Research in Solid Tumors Program; and Hematologic Malignancies. They conduct groundbreaking laboratory research and translate their findings into innovative clinical trials which generate over $175 million in extramural cancer-relevant research funding annually. Read about Lurie Cancer Center's research programs, and affiliated programs and center here.
Faculty members also collaborate with national and state agencies,including the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Illinois Department of Public Health, and the American Cancer Society. 125,000 square feet of space on Northwestern University's Evanston and Chicago medical campuses is dedicated to laboratory and clinical research and administrative support. Lurie Cancer Center investigators share access to 16 core research facilities, including multiple imaging facilities, along with flow cytometry, pathology and specimen procurement, clinical research, biostatistics and bioinformatics.
Following are a few examples of the progress and discoveries that occurred in 2015. Visit cancer.northwestern.edu for more information.
A $17.4 million grant will enable Northwestern, University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) and Northeastern Illinois University to collaborate with many of the city's underserved communities to foster meaningful cancer research, education, training and outreach. The five-year grant is led by Principal Investigator Melissa Simon, MD, PhD, Co-Leader of Lurie Cancer Center's Cancer Control and Survivorship Program.
Prostate Cancer SPORE
Lurie Cancer Center has been awarded a new $11 million, five-year competitive NCI grant to continue leadership of a Specialized Programs of Research Excellence (SPORE) in prostate cancer — one of only eight in the nation. "The whole philosophy of a SPORE grant is that you have to take basic science from the research bench and move it to the patient's bedside in five years," says William Catalona, MD, Principal Investigator and Director of Lurie Cancer Center's Clinical Prostate Program. "The translational work performed under the SPORE will have a significant impact on the outcomes and overall quality of life of prostate cancer patients."
A five-year, $11.7 million grant will support the Northwestern University Center for Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence (Northwestern CCNE). Under the direction of Principal Investigators Chad Mirkin, PhD, and Leonidas Platanias, MD, PhD, the Northwestern CCNE will use nucleic-acid-based nanoconstructs called Spherical Nucleic Acids (SNAs) to gain access to intracellular environments, discover new aspects of cancer biology and create effective cancer treatment options.
Physical Sciences in Oncology
A five-year, $9.6 million grant from the NCI for the new Chicago Region Physical Sciences Oncology Center (CR-PSOC), unites researchers from Lurie Cancer Center, University of Chicago and UIC to translate breakthroughs in the physical sciences to cancer research. Led by Principal Investigator Thomas V. O'Halloran, PhD, the CR-PSOC is one of only four such centers funded this year.
Four Lurie Cancer Center scientists received seven-year, $6.4 million grants from the National Cancer Institute to embark on projects that have unusual potential to advance cancer research. This new program, that completed its inaugural round of funding in 2015, was established to support experienced and exceptional investigators. Award recipients are encouraged to use the grant to be more adventurous and to take greater risks in order to break new ground in their lines of inquiry.
Marcus Peter, PhD, Professor of Medicine in the Division of Hematology/Oncology and Leader of the Translational Research in Solid Tumors Program, Navdeep Chandel, PhD, David W. Cugell Professor of Medicine & Cell Biology and Leader of the Membranes, Organelles and Metabolism Program at Lurie Cancer Center, and Ali Shilatifard, PhD, Chair and Robert Francis Furchgott Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics at Feinberg School of Medicine, received NCI's R35 Outstanding Investigator Awards.
In addition, Maciej Lesniak, MD, Chair and Michael J. Marchese Professor of Neurological Surgery at Feinberg and Head of Neuro-Oncology at Lurie Cancer Center, was also chosen to receive an NCI Outstanding Investigator Award while still at University of Chicago. His research will continue at Lurie Cancer Center, where he plans to develop therapies for malignant brain tumors by targeting stem cells.
Lurie Cancer Center launched an important new research program in 2015 — OncoSET (Sequence, Evaluate, Treat) — to provide a more personalized, precision medicine option for cancer patients by combining oncology with genomics. OncoSET will initially focus on patients with any type of cancer that is unresponsive to traditional therapies.
"Lurie Cancer Center OncoSET will help establish Chicago as a national and international leader in precision medicine for cancer," said Leonidas Platanias, MD, PhD, Director of Lurie Cancer Center. "This is the first time cancer treatment in Chicago will be offered in a comprehensive, multidisciplinary program using molecularly defined genomic targets as a basis for determining treatment options including novel early-phase clinical trials."
OncoSET personalizes cancer care by sequencing the individual genetic profile of a tumor, known as genomic profiling, and by evaluating the results to provide the treatments or clinical trials that will be most beneficial to the patient. Some of these approaches include site-agnostic, pathway-driven treatments, using therapies developed to target the specific genetic abnormalities of one type of cancer and applying them to treat a different kind of cancer if it shares the same genetic abnormalities. "As part of our work with OncoSET, we are also planning to initiate a pilot program of site-agnostic, pathway-driven tumor clinics," added Dr. Platanias.
"OncoSET is an unprecedented initiative to deliver personalized, effective cancer treatments to patients who currently have very limited options. Advanced molecular testing to evaluate a tumor's genetic profile will increase our understanding of the disease, and our ability to offer individually tailored therapeutic agents," said Massimo Cristofanilli, MD, Associate Director for Translational Research and Precision Medicine at Lurie Cancer Center, and Director, OncoSET. "In addition to an innovative, patient-centered approach to cancer care, patient engagement and education will be an integral part of OncoSET's focus."
By offering cancer patients care within OncoSET, the program is also expanding Lurie Cancer Center's pre-clinical research by collecting and analyzing detailed genomic data to identify patterns and signature pathway activity. "We will also monitor and evaluate the impact of our combined diagnostic and targeted therapeutic approaches to define a new, cost-effective standard of cancer care," Dr. Cristofanilli said.
The Translational Bridge Program was launched to translate basic science research into novel clinical approaches and address the most urgent questions in the fields of cancer biology and cancer care. Lurie Cancer Center provides Postdoctoral Fellows with funding to conduct novel research in cancer biology with the potential for translation into a diagnostic or therapeutic setting.
Bridge Fellows design and execute a translational project that targets a specific cancer type in a basic science lab, headed by a seasoned investigator and partnered with a clinician with expertise in a particular cancer or clinical research field. The bridge fellow is mentored and supervised by both senior faculty members. The ultimate goal is to propel laboratory research into investigator-initiated clinical trials.
In 2015, six Bridge Awards supported research targeting breast cancer, brain cancer, lymphoma, melanoma, ovarian cancer and prostate cancer. Read about their projects here.
David Gius, MD, PhD
Cesar Santa-Maria, MD
Yueming Zhu, PhD
Thomas O'Halloran, PhD
Jeffrey Raizer, MD
Elden Swindell, PhD
Ali Shilatifard, PhD
Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics
Jane Winter, MD
Deqing Hu, PhD
Kathleen Green, PhD
Pathology and Dermatology
Sunandana Chandra, MD/MS
Christopher Arnette, PhD
Vadim Backman, PhD
Shohreh Shahabi, MD
Lusik Cherkezyan, PhD
Lurie Cancer Center scientists are investigating every facet of cancer, conducting high-impact basic, clinical and population-based research. Below are some notable discoveries from 2015. Read about others here.
Promising Strategy for Treating Rare Forms of Leukemia
A study led by John Crispino, PhD, Associate Director for Education and Training at Lurie Cancer Center, has identified a drug that stops the reproduction of cancer cells in models of primary myelofibrosis, a rare and incurable form of chronic leukemia that disrupts normal blood cell production and causes scarring in the bone marrow.
New Player in Lung Cancer Progression Discovered
Globally, lung cancer causes more deaths than any other cancer. In a recent study, Principal Investigator Jane Wu, MD, PhD, with scientists from Lurie Cancer Center identified a previously unknown gene pathway that correlates with lung cancer tumor formation and metastasis.
Predicting Prostate Cancer
Nanocytology, a specialized technology developed by researchers at Lurie Cancer Center, may help identify specific biomarkers of aggressive cancers. "If we can predict a prognosis with our technology, then men will know if their cancer is dangerous and if they should seek treatment," said Vadim Backman, PhD, senior author of the study.
Coffee Associated with Colon Cancer Survival
Patients treated for colon cancer who regularly drank caffeinated coffee had lower rates of cancer recurrence and mortality, according to a recent study co-authored by Al B. Benson, III, MD, Associate Director for Cooperative Groups at Lurie Cancer Center.
Fueled by advances in research, Lurie Cancer Center provides compassionate, comprehensive cancer care and the most advanced therapies available. Two outpatient facilities, totaling 56,000 square feet of space, provide state-of-the-art medical, surgical and radiation oncology treatment options as well as access to specialized clinical trials, support and diagnostic services.
The Maggie Daley Center for Women’s Cancer Care, located within Prentice Women’s Hospital, addresses the unique medical, emotional and genetic needs of women with gynecologic and breast cancers. Both locations are supported by on-site pharmacy and lab services as well as a comprehensive Supportive Oncology Program. All Lurie Cancer Center physicians are full-time faculty at Feinberg School of Medicine.
Lurie Cancer Center and its affiliated hospitals and physician practices treat nearly 10,000 new cancer cases each year. A wide range of services reflect our commitment to caring for each patient from diagnosis through treatment to rehabilitation. View our Specialty Cancer Programs and Services here.
The Clinical Research Office (CRO) was galvanized in 2015 by new leadership and structure. Mark Agulnik, MD, a leader in medical oncology, was appointed Director of the CRO, Renee Webb was named Assistant Director for Administration at Lurie Cancer Center, and Carolyn Passaglia was named Administrative Director of the CRO.
The CRO administers a comprehensive clinical trials program that is available to patients. Staffed by 50 full-time employees, the CRO conducts and coordinates Phase I through Phase III clinical trials sponsored by federally funded national cooperative groups and the pharmaceutical industry, as well as investigator-initiated institutional trials developed by faculty members at Feinberg.
Lurie Cancer Center's Developmental Therapeutics Institute, established in 2013 under the leadership of Frank Giles, MB, MD, is accelerating the translation of pre-clinical science breakthroughs to better cancer therapies. Physicians affiliated with Lurie Cancer Center and Northwestern Medicine play leading roles in national cooperative group studies, and strive to develop, test and expedite access to new treatments. Currently, Lurie Cancer Center has more than 300 clinical trials underway. View a continually updated list of clinical trials here.
Lurie Cancer Center launched the Clinical Cancer Center Executive Council to facilitate collaboration across Northwestern Medicine’s rapidly growing Northwestern Memorial Healthcare system. Comprised of administrative and medical leaders in oncology, the council meets quarterly to discuss strategic concerns and opportunities to increase integration across academic and community settings to further align the delivery of cancer care, ensure consistently high levels of quality and an exceptional patient experience. Liz Rosenberg, NMHC Senior Vice President for Strategy, is the council’s co-leader.
The council welcomes input and participation from all stakeholders as the Lurie Cancer Center embarks on this new phase of growth.
Northwestern Medicine's Division of Hematology/Oncology received a new three-year certification from the Quality Oncology Practice Initiative (QOPI®) Certification Program, an affiliate of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO). QOPI certification is awarded to outpatient hematology-oncology practices that meet the highest quality standards for patient care and safety.
"We are very proud to receive this recognition from ASCO and its QOPI program," said Leonidas Platanias, MD, PhD, Director of Lurie Cancer Center. "This certification is not only a reflection of the level of care our physicians provide, but of the hard work they do every day to achieve it."
In 2015, Lynn Sage Comprehensive Breast Center was recognized by the National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers (NAPBC) for its "firm commitment to offering its patients every significant advantage in their battle against breast disease." Lynn Sage received a three-year accreditation renewal from the NAPBC, awarded to those centers that voluntarily commit to provide the highest level of breast cancer diagnosis and treatment, and undergo a rigorous evaluation and review of their performance.
Head and neck cancers often affect swallowing, speech, and hearing, and can have a major impact on the quality of life.
Led by Sandeep Samant, MD, Lurie Cancer Center's new Head and Neck Program manages complex head and neck cancers. The program's multidisciplinary team of experts uses minimally invasive techniques and recent advances in drug therapies to achieve the best possible outcomes. Read more
At Lurie Cancer Center, education and outreach is an integral part of our mission.
Professional education opportunities on a wide range of cancer-related topics are offered throughout the year. In October, more than 700 practicing clinicians gathered for the 17th Annual Lynn Sage Breast Cancer Symposium, a powerful and engaging CME program and forum for leading medical, surgical and radiation oncologists to present, debate and evaluate cutting-edge technology and approaches in the management of breast cancer. Save the date, September 22-25, for the 2016 symposium in Chicago. Read more about our professional education and training programs.
Lurie Cancer Center hosts a variety of community events and education programs, many in partnership with local and national advocacy organizations, to inform patients, families and supporters about the latest developments in cancer risk reduction, screening, treatment and support. Read more about our upcoming events.
Lurie Cancer Center's Office of Equity and Minority Health (OEMH), under the direction of Associate Director, Alexis Thompson, MD, MPH, is dedicated to research, education, and policy formulation that identifies the root causes of cancer health disparities, and works to advance the understanding of practices to eliminate barriers to health empowerment and equity. Shaan Trotter, MSc, Administrative Director of the OEMH, was named Co-Chair of the Illinois Cancer Partnership in 2015, and honored with a Public Health Champion Award from the Illinois Department of Public Health in recognition of his “time, talent and enthusiasm to enrich the lives of others.” Read more about the Office of Equity and Minority Health
The Supportive Oncology Program at Lurie Cancer Center provides emotional and practical support for patients and families coping with the challenges of diagnosis, treatment and recovery. A multidisciplinary team is dedicated to listening and responding to patient concerns, promoting well-being and treating each individual with respect and compassion. In addition, the Supportive Oncology team works directly with clinical researchers on improving the psychosocial health of adults with cancer.
Lurie Cancer Center’s Survivorship, Supportive Oncology and Oncofertility Programs — and their impact on the lives of our patients — were the focus of Northwestern Medicine Magazine's cover story in Spring 2015. The article highlighted how these programs converged to help a young cancer survivor move forward and achieve her goal of starting a family. Read more
As part of the Coleman Supportive Oncology Initiative (CSOI) funded by the Coleman Foundation, Lurie Cancer Center and Northwestern Medicine interact with key community stakeholders to guide the implementation of best practices for distress screening and survivorship care among cancer patients across the Chicago community. Distress screening involves administering surveys by care providers to identify the physical and emotional burdens that cancer patients may be experiencing, and providing access to care and resources to meet their needs. The survivorship care component addresses the patient's needs once they have completed primary treatment and provides them with a survivorship care plan that includes key information about their treatment, follow-up and healthy lifestyle recommendations.
"Having a screening and referral process in place for the emotional and physical needs of cancer patients is critical to providing optimal care and maximizing quality of life during an often challenging period," said Frank Penedo, PhD, Principal Investigator of the CSOI's distress screening and survivorship initiative teams and Director, Lurie Cancer Center's Cancer Survivorship Institute. "By identifying these problem areas, we can help patients tap into the best available resources, address these needs and optimize their care." Read more
The Annual Cancer Survivors' Celebration Walk & 5K is Lurie Cancer Center's tribute to cancer survivors, and advances in cancer treatment and research. Held on National Cancer Survivors Day, the first Sunday in June, the non-competitive three mile walk and chip-timed 5K race is a community awareness event that draws close to 5,000 participants — cancer survivors, their family and friends, and the physicians, scientists and health professionals who support them.
The 2015 Walk was the coldest in 22 years, but wind and rain was no deterrent to the warmth and spirit of the celebration! Participants and sponsors raised more than $225,000, which was directed to research and programs at Lurie Cancer Center. "Let's be clear! No rain can stop us!" said Dr. Leonidas Platanias, before leading the countdown to launch the event. He thanked the crowd for their generosity, partnership, and support of the initiatives to overcome cancer and "have more survivors every year."
Preparations for the 23rd Annual Cancer Survivors' Celebration Walk & 5K are underway. Register now to join the celebration on Sunday, June 5, 2016.
In October 2015, nearly 200 members of Lurie Cancer Center, leaders from Northwestern University and Northwestern Medicine and supporters and friends gathered to launch the Cancer Institutes within Lurie Cancer Center. As part of the program, research teams from Lurie Cancer Center presented nearly 30 posters on topics ranging from clinical trials in thoracic oncology, global health and brain tumor immunotherapy to integrative medicine, genome sequencing and survivorship.
Leonidas Platanias, MD, PhD, gave an overview of Lurie Cancer Center’s programs and services, highlighting promising initiatives such as OncoSET's aim to develop and deliver “never-before-realized personalized cancer treatment.”
Northwestern University Trustee and benefactor Ann Lurie described the “compassion, understanding and superb care,” she and her late husband, Bob, experienced at Northwestern nearly 30 years ago. “I am proud to have watched the Lurie Cancer Center’s evolution, internationally renowned, yet always focused on the individual and family.”
Lurie Cancer Center is grateful for the generosity of friends who provide the vital support necessary to pursue lifesaving research, deliver more effective, personalized cancer therapies, and train the next generation of physicians and scientists. We are honored to have your help. Learn more about supporting Lurie Cancer Center.
The cancer center was established at Northwestern University in 1974. In 1991, through an endowment from Ann and Robert H. Lurie, the center was dedicated as the Robert H. Lurie Cancer Center of Northwestern University. In 1997, the title was modified to Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University, when it was awarded the National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) highly competitive "Comprehensive" designation which reflected Lurie Cancer Center’s dedication to the highest standards of cancer research, patient care, education and community outreach.
Lurie Cancer Center is a founding member of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN), an alliance of 26 of the world's leading cancer centers dedicated to quality, effectiveness and efficiency of cancer care and also part of the Big Ten Cancer Research Consortium, a network of academic institutions working together on highly translational clinical trials using the expertise of Big Ten universities.
Lurie Cancer Center thanks The Lea Charitable Trust for their ongoing support and encouragement in the production of this report.