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Cancer Collaboration²
A second Cancer Research Building invites researchers across departments to work together on some of the disease’s most daunting problems

The new Cancer Research Building, right, with its twin to the left, creates a mini-campus for cancer investigators. An auditorium rises behind the glass link.

After a long day at the lab, oncology researcher Curt Civin headed for his car. En route, as he walked through the recently opened Cancer Research Building, Civin ran into a new tenant, a pathologist colleague he hadn’t seen in months.

Civin arrived home late for dinner that night, but it was worth it. That chance encounter led to a new grant proposal and a collaboration that may never have materialized had the two worked on opposite sides of the campus.

The first cancer research building, or Bunting Blaustein Building, houses mostly Kimmel Cancer Center researchers. This new iteration, known for now simply as CRB II, brings together cancer investigators from across all departments. It supports oncology research in dermatology, medicine, neurosurgery, oncology, ophthalmology, otolaryngology, pathology, radiation oncology and surgery. Together, these two buildings on Orleans, just west of Broadway, bring together roughly 900 researchers. Once scattered throughout the East Baltimore campus in outdated labs, these scientists now are better situated for discovery and collaboration.

“It’s an exciting time to be a cancer researcher at Hopkins,” says Civin. “Great discoveries can happen just by having these buildings next to each other. There are so many opportunities to interact, formally and informally, with twice as many researchers.”

Neurosurgery’s Betty Tyler and Dermatology’s Lieping Chen had teamed up in the past but hadn't met until both relocated to CRB II.

Neurosurgery researcher Betty Tyler moved to the second floor of CRB II in February after 14 years in Hunterian where, under the direction of Neurosurgery chair Henry Brem, she and her colleagues worked to develop drug delivery techniques that transport drugs directly to tumors. Working in the neurosurgery labs where the legendary Harvey Cushing had studied brain tissue, she felt a strong sense of history.

“But this new space is spectacular and expansive, with state-of-the art scientific facilities,” says Tyler. She praises the common spaces at the end of each floor, where researchers can congregate and map out concepts on a whiteboard. A while ago, Tyler wrote a grant proposal with dermatologist Lieping Chen but had never met him. Now he’s also moved to CRB II. Both expect their new proximity to spark more joint projects.

But most important, says Tyler, is the fact that most of the neurosurgery laboratories, once located throughout the East Baltimore campus and at Bayview, now are united under one roof. “This increases possibilities for collaboration as well as productivity.”


Built at a cost of more than $87 million, CRB II opened in January. Most of the labs were up and running by the end of March. Designed by HDR Architecture Inc., the same firm that did Bunting Blaustein, it has 10 stories of offices and five floors of labs, each topped with the signature “interstitial” service space. It is linked to its Bunting Blaustein twin by a glass-enclosed connector.

In his spacious new lab, Lieping Chen explains a new method to identify abnormal proteins on cancer cells to, from left, neurosurgery researchers Gary Gallia, Betty Tyler and I-Mei Siu.

Though the twins appear identical, there are differences, points out Craig Goodwin, assistant director of design and construction in the School of Medicine’s Office of Facilities Management. Because of an elevation drop between the buildings, the entrance to CRB II is on the ground floor instead of the first floor. CRB II also has a subbasement large enough to house a vivarium almost three times the size of Bunting Blaustein’s (see sidebar) and an auditorium, funded by a $4 million gift from an anonymous donor.

“That was the biggest surprise in this entire project,” says Goodwin. Scheduled to open in June, the sloped, 230-seat auditorium will include state-of-the art equipment, comfortable seating and a pre-function room. “We’re so grateful to our donor,” says Marty Abeloff, Kimmel Cancer Center director. “Now our meetings won’t have as many space constraints.” Carefully planned by a 20-member educational committee, the auditorium will be the setting for weekly translational research meetings. Already on the roster is the annual cancer pain conference, scheduled for October.

The café Me Latte, now located on the first floor and serving a full complement of breakfast and lunch items, will eventually move to the pre-function room. Even this eatery can aid interaction. “Sometimes I’ll grab a cup of coffee and break bread with postdocs, students and faculty from different departments to discuss a paper I’ve just read,” says Civin, who is best known for isolating stem cells in bone marrow, work that improved cancer therapies for childhood and adult leukemias.

(Photo: Robert Lautman)


The Kimmel Cancer Center ranks third in funding from the National Cancer Institute and is the only one in the United States to have earned seven coveted NCI SPORE (Specialized Programs of Research Excellence) grants for translational research in prostate, lung and gastrointestinal cancers. “This new mini-campus represents one of the strongest collections of cancer researchers in the country,” notes Abeloff. “I have no doubt this huge convergence will accelerate our research and may even hasten cures.”

—Judy Minkove

Research Animals Get a New Home

If you thought finding housing was tough for people in Baltimore City, try being a lab rat.

Carving out space on campus to house the thousands of rodents used in research is an ongoing challenge. That’s why the construction of a new 17,500-square-foot, state-of-the-art vivarium in CRB II is so exciting. “The vivarium will more than triple our animal housing for oncology research,” says Lisa Davis, lab animal resources manager.

Davis oversees the care of all animals used in oncology research here—95 percent of them rats and mice. One of the biggest challenges of the job, she says, is keeping them disease-free. Viruses can spread through an animal colony as quickly as sniffles in a nursery school, with worse consequences. The new vivarium will be an SPF (specific pathogen-free) facility, meaning “free of all those diseases known to confound research,” says Davis.

The animals will move into their new home sometime this summer. At present, says Davis, “they are spread across campus.” At first, they’ll have the run of the place, as the vivarium is expected to be only one-third to one-half full during the first year. The facility will be staffed seven days a week, 365 days a year by approximately 20 employees, including veterinary technicians, care staff and cage washers.

Like all animal facilities on campus, the vivarium is constructed and managed according to strict Public Health Services (PHS) guidelines meant to assure the highest environmental quality, safety and care. Because some rabbits will be housed here too, it will be monitored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the federal agency charged with enforcing the Animal Welfare Act. Rodents and birds are not covered under the act. However, PHS guidelines, which do cover those animals, are nearly identical, ensuring that all will receive appropriate care.

Deborah Rudacille



Johns Hopkins Medicine

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