The Corporation of Brown University has approved the establishment of the Cancer Center at Brown. The center takes a broad-spectrum approach to research, from working to understand how cancer develops, grows, and metastasizes, to developing new therapeutics for patients in a personalized way that addresses their needs, ranging from risk through survivorship.
The Cancer Center is an outgrowth of the Joint Program in Cancer Biology established between Brown and Lifespan in 2018. Associate Dean for Oncologic Sciences Wafik S. El-Deiry, MD, PhD, FACP, was recruited to Brown as its inaugural Director.
Wafik S. El-Deiry, MD, PhD, FACP
“Establishing the Cancer Center at Brown will support the programmatic integration of innovative cancer-relevant research,” Dr. El-Deiry said. “By bringing programs from across campus and the affiliated hospitals together, we can highlight existing strengths, forge new collaborations, and eventually tap into significant extramural resources, while addressing the cancer burden in Rhode Island and throughout the world.”
An Environment of Transdisciplinary Collaboration
The existing strengths include 150 investigators conducting basic, clinical, and population research, with more than $40 million dollars in funding to support research and clinical trials. Within the Cancer Center, investigators have been organized into Programs—in Cancer Biology, Cancer Therapeutics, or Population Science—according to the nature of their research. In addition, 11 Translational Research Disease Groups have been developed around specific types of cancer.
Another existing strength is the investigator-initiated cancer therapeutic clinical research conducted through the Brown University Oncology Research Group. Since 1994, the program has given Rhode Islanders access to cutting-edge cancer treatment protocols. Many of these protocols have gone on to become the standard of care for certain types of cancer.
Emphasis on cancer in Rhode Island is an important area of focus for the Cancer Center at Brown, Dr. El-Deiry said. “We have special interests in cancers with higher rates in Rhode Island, such as bladder cancer, lung cancer, breast, thyroid, and skin cancer, as well as issues of access to care and affordability of care within our population,” he commented. “And now, we have added barriers to optimal cancer care due to COVID-19 that we are working to improve,” he added.
The Cancer Center, which has also joined the Association of American Cancer Institutes, can draw upon a vast network of collaborators across the state to address these issues. At Brown, the School of Public Health offers research on a number of behavioral contributors to cancer development, such as smoking, alcohol use, and lack of physical activity. In Brown’s affiliated hospitals, the Lifespan Health System and Lifespan Cancer Institute care for about 4,000 newly diagnosed patients with cancer every year, providing treatments and continually evolving with the fast-moving field of cancer research.