Translational cancer research defines a means of transferring basic discoveries in the laboratory into new clinical interventions for the diagnosis, treatment, prognosis, or prevention of cancer with a direct benefit to the patient. This idea forms the basis of our “Discovery to Recovery” motto. We aim to foster the immediate translation of results from ongoing clinical trials into improved patient treatment planning and health decision making. We also seek to implement a cultural transformation of the cancer research endeavor into one composed of multidisciplinary teams organized around a common purpose.
In Delaware, the common desire for the creation of a translational cancer research effort among faculty and clinicians recruited to the State over the past decade has, in essence, created a clinical and translational cancer effort "without walls." The thriving effort in translational cancer research involves individuals from four institutions, University of Delaware, A.I. duPont Hospital for Children/Nemours, Christiana Care Health System/Helen F. Graham Cancer Center and the Delaware Biotechnology Institute who share a common vision to improve cancer research and delivery. The diamond shape of our logo represents not only Delaware, the Diamond State, but also the commitment of our institutions to work together to battle cancer.
Our mission is to establish a pipeline of translational cancer researchers and clinicians by developing a program that starts at the undergraduate level and continues to provide training throughout the graduate and post-graduate levels. We also seek to build research partnerships constituting teams of clinicians, biologists and engineers, chemists and computer scientists to attack cancer related problems.
The University of Delaware (UD)
UD is a Doctoral/Research Universities-Extensive institution. UD has grown from its founding as a small private academy in 1743 to a major university. The University enrolls over 16,000 undergraduate students and nearly 3,000 graduate students. As one of the oldest land-grant institutions, as well as a sea-grant, space-grant and urban-grant institution, UD offers an impressive collection of educational resources. Undergraduates choose among more than 100 academic majors. The University's distinguished faculty includes internationally known scientists, authors and teachers, who are committed to continuing UD’s nationally recognized tradition in providing one of the highest quality undergraduate educations available. As a state-assisted, privately controlled institution, the University seeks to enroll students from diverse backgrounds and a wide variety of geographic regions. Currently, 60 percent of Newark campus undergraduates are nonresidents who represent nearly every state and several foreign countries. UD is strongly committed to enrolling and retaining minority students.
UD faculty members currently receive more than $21 million of NIH-funded grant awards including to three NIH-funded Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence (COBRE). Each of these centers supports projects involving faculty spanning multiple departments and colleges within the university. Part of the COBRE mission is to develop novel graduate training avenues and to support new faculty in research projects that can develop into significant independent projects, e.g., RO1s. The DBI, an academic unit of UD, administrates the $25 million NIH-NCRR-funded IDeA Network of Biomedical Research Excellence (INBRE), which includes all state institutions of higher education as well as AIDHC and CCHS. The INBRE goal is to develop the biomedical research capacity in the State of Delaware through strengthened life sciences infrastructure, mentored research for junior faculty and clinicians who wish to engage in translational research as well as research training for undergraduate and graduate students. In addition, more than 15% of the UD Biological Sciences graduate students currently work in AIDHC laboratories.
A.I. duPont Hospital for Children (AIDHC)
The AIDHC is a part of Nemours, an independent non-profit entity that provides health care, including cancer treatment, to children at multiple sites in Delaware and Florida. During the past ten years, the hospital in Delaware has experienced tremendous growth, developing into a full-service children’s hospital with a full range of pediatric specialties, such that Nemours is now the nation’s largest group medical practice devoted to pediatric patient care. This division provides direct support to 15 programmatic laboratories, seven core laboratories, and seven clinical research laboratories. The clinical research labs emphasize generation and adoption of new clinical diagnostics. AIDHC investigators are currently involved in 19 clinical trials, 32 non-federal grants and 22 federal grants.
KidsHealth.org was launched in 1995 and is now the world’s largest provider of doctor-approved healthcare information. The large contingent of staff that is committed to maintain and expand this service demonstrates the extraordinary commitment of Nemours to its community outreach programs. Nemours is committed to expanding its biomedical research efforts. Additional investigators have been recruited, state-of-the-art equipment purchased and core research facilities strengthened. A COBRE grant supports a Center for Pediatric Research (CPR) that is designed to train basic and physician-scientists whose work focuses directly on disorders in children including pediatric cancer.
Christiana Care Health System / Helen F. Graham Cancer Center (CCHS/HFGCC)
Established more than 100 years ago, CCHS is the major health care delivery system in Delaware with over 8,000 employees. With more than 43,000 admissions, 2,700 cancer cases and 6,900 births annually Christiana Care is the 16th largest hospital system in the country and has been accredited by the Joint Commission of Health Care Organizations. In 1997 it became one of only 15% of the country’s health care facilities to receive Accreditation with Commendation, the Joint Commission’s highest standard. In January 2003 Christiana Care’s Cancer Program received approval from the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer to extend its accreditation for another three years. Forty-five beds are dedicated to the hematology and oncology unit with the bone marrow transplant unit having an additional 6 beds. Most catchment area oncologists, hematologists and pediatric hematologist/oncologists participate in the National Cancer Institute funded Community Clinical Oncology Program (CCOP).
The Helen F. Graham Cancer Center (HFGCC) at CCHS provides programs in cancer prevention, early detection and treatment. A High Risk Family Cancer Registry of 500 families with over 15,000 individuals has been established as part of the genetic counseling and gene testing program. CCHS, which registers approximately 70 percent of the state's cancer patients through its Oncology Data Center, is located in New Castle County, the state's most populated county. The CCOP members collaborate in medical research among themselves and with other cancer centers across the country in a variety of Phase I, II and III clinical trials. Christiana Care ranks as a top national accruer for CALGB, ECOG, and RTOG studies. In 2004, the Christiana Delaware CCOP received the ASCO Clinical Trials Participation Award for the highest clinical trials accruer to Phase III NCI trials over a 3-year period. A parallel pharmaceutical clinical trials program was established to offer patients cutting edge drugs and vaccines.
An exceptional number of cancer patients at the HFGCC in CCHS are enrolled in clinical trials. The accrual rate in 2003 jumped to 13.1% and in 2004, 27.5%. In 2005, it was 28%, well above the 2.5% national average. In addition, the cancer research program follows about 1,000 patients annually in the cancer registry with 2,700 newly diagnosed cancer patients annually.
The Delaware Biotechnology Institute (DBI)
The DBI was established as an academic unit of UD in 1999, and is located adjacent to the University’s campus in Newark. The mission of the DBI is to support a statewide partnership of higher education, government, industry and the medical community devoted to the discovery and application of new interdisciplinary knowledge in the life sciences and biotechnology. At DBI, an experienced management team from academia and industry has been assembled in support of a statewide life sciences initiative encompassing research, education and economic development. In the growing statewide network that is anchored by DBI, areas of research focus include human health, agriculture, environmental ecosystems, computational biology and biomaterials.
DBI’s 72,000 square foot research laboratory opened in January 2001 and houses a professional staff and instrumentation infrastructure including 25 faculty members, 20 professional research personnel and support staff and more than 120 graduate and postdoctoral researchers. A larger group of some 80 multi-disciplinary faculty members active in life sciences are affiliated with DBI. They represent five colleges and 13 departments at the UD, all of the academic institutions of higher education in the state - Delaware State University, Wesley College, and Delaware Technical & Community College, and the major health care providers in the state, CCHS and AIDHC. Faculty at these institutions serve as affiliate members of the CTCR.
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