NCI recommends the Wistar Institute receive $14.9 million support grant renewal

February 20, 2014

After an extensive review by a panel of top cancer experts, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) rated The Wistar Institute Cancer Center as "exceptional" and recommended renewal for Wistar's Support Grant with an award of $14.9 million over the next five years. The Grant funds the infrastructure and research support facilities that enable Wistar scientists to conduct their research. In 1972, Wistar became the first NCI-designated cancer center in the city of Philadelphia and the first in the nation solely devoted to fundamental research in the biology of cancer. Although many institutions call themselves cancer centers, only 65 nationally are so designated by the National Cancer Institute, and this designation clearly distinguishes The Wistar Institute Cancer Center.

The review process evaluated research programs, shared resources, educational outreach efforts, and the leadership of Cancer Center Director Dario Altieri, M.D., and rated the Cancer Center and its director with the overall rating of "exceptional," its highest ranking. The successful renewal cited Wistar's commitment to scientific collaboration, both across the Institute itself and in partnerships with such organizations as the Helen F. Graham Cancer Center in Delaware, the Moulder Center for Drug Discovery at Temple University, and the Community College of Philadelphia. The review lauded Wistar's institutional commitment to its scientists and a top-notch research environment, such as the new seven-story Robert and Penny Fox Tower currently under construction.

"This Support Grant represents who we are as an institution, and we take immense pride in our NCI designation," said Altieri, who also serves as the Institute's Chief Scientific Officer and Robert and Penny Fox Distinguished Professor. "The recent renewal is a testament to the strengths of our science, our culture of collaboration and sharing, and the success of our researchers in pushing the boundaries of discovery and knowledge in cancer biology and cancer therapy."

In particular, this NCI Grant supports Wistar's shared resources. These resources offer outstanding expertise in advanced scientific services, from imaging to molecular screening. "We are a small institution, and our shared resources act as force multipliers, augmenting the scientific capabilities of each independent laboratory," explained Altieri.

"The Support Grant is a potent driver of research at Wistar, and our NCI designation is highly valued in the research community," said Wistar President and CEO, Russel E. Kaufman, M.D. "'Exceptional' is the highest rating the review panel could give, and I can't think of better way to describe the efforts of Dr. Altieri and all of our faculty."

The faculty of The Wistar Institute Cancer Center are members of three research programs: Gene Expression and Regulation, Molecular and Cellular Oncogenesis, and Tumor Microenvironment and Metastasis. Each program delves into a particular, overlapping field of cancer biology. In the years leading up to this grant renewal, the Institute has made a concerted effort to enhance scientific collaboration between programs, which has resulted in an ever increasing number of shared authorship among researchers on published scientific studies, a hallmark of such collaboration.

"In recent years, our faculty embraced the 'team science' model that calls for the sort of interdisciplinary research that drives discovery: there is really no 'I' anymore in cancer research, only 'We,'" said Altieri.

In recognition of the global need to improve cancer therapy, the Institute recently announced the formation of a new Cancer Center program in Translational Tumor Immunology, to be led by the noted expert in cancer immunology and immunotherapy, Dmitry Gabrilovich, M.D., Ph.D. The nascent program will recruit new faculty to the Institute and establish the strongest possible scientific track record in time for the next Support Grant renewal in five years.

"We work to expand our knowledge of cancer, but we are also committed at moving our discoveries into the clinic to develop better treatments for the millions of people living with cancer today. The creation of a new program in Translational Tumor Immunology is an important step in that direction, building on the exceptional strength of Wistar science," Altieri said.
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The Wistar Institute

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