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Promise and Progress - Director's Letter

Engineering Cures: Physicians and Engineers Working Together to Fight Cancer
Issue No. 2012

Director's Letter

Date: December 20, 2011

A New Era in Cancer Medicine


William Nelson, M.D., Ph.D.
William Nelson, M.D., Ph.D.

Johns Hopkins is uniquely positioned to make revolutionary advances against diseases, like cancer.   Advances that could not even be imagined 10 to 15 years ago are now happening.  I am proud to tell you that our researchers have been at the center of these amazing accomplishments. 

For certain, we are doing things a bit differently now.  We are transforming cancer medicine away from a model in which we see patients for the first time when they begin experiencing symptoms to one that detects, manages, and many times eradicates cancers before patients even know they have them.  This new system, driven in large part by our pioneering discoveries in cancer genetics and epigenetics, is one that preserves health by preventing cancers, very accurately predicting who will get them, and personalizing treatments to each individual patient, making sure he or she gets the treatments that will work against the unique cellular characteristics of the cancer. 

As you will read in this issue of Promise & Progress, we have a new partner in this work.  Researchers in the Whiting School of Engineering, long recognized for using the principles of engineering to fight human diseases, are now working side by side with cancer researchers and clinicians to improve the tools we use to make progress in the laboratory and at the bedside. Robotics and other surgical devices, computational and computer sciences, nanobiotechnology, molecular imaging, and other vital engineering-based expertise and advances are helping us achieve our mission to best prevent, detect, treat, and monitor cancer.  

As a result of these and other collaborations, we are already using scientific discoveries to guide our clinical care. These discoveries are helping to ensure we get the right treatments to the right people at the right time.

The Kimmel Cancer Center is an incredible discovery engine, and our brilliant team of investigators and clinicians has led the way in developing tests that detect cellular alterations that identify cancers, predict which therapies they will respond to, and monitor them for recurrence.   Our success is being fueled by generous support such as that received from the Commonwealth Foundation for Cancer Research and David H. Koch. The Commonwealth Foundation gift is allowing us to create the Center for Personalized Cancer Medicine (see page 36), and the Koch Cancer Research Building is home to our next generation sequencing laboratory, which is essential to our breakthrough research in cancer biology that makes personalized therapies possible. 

The next step is to adapt these technologies so that they can be used routinely to make clinical decisions about how to best treat cancers, not just at the Kimmel Cancer Center, but at cancer centers and hospitals around the world. 
We are ushering in a new era of cancer medicine.

William G. Nelson, M.D., Ph.D
Marion I. Knott Professor and Director
The Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins

Related Content

Articles in this Issue

Director's Letter

Headline Makers

Cover Story: Engineering Cures

In the News

Honors & Awards

Philanthropy

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