By Ruben Mesa, M.D., FACP
Director, UT Health San Antonio MD Anderson Cancer Center
As we embark upon a new academic year, we can celebrate what a fabulous year it has been for UT Health San Antonio MD Anderson Cancer Center. I would like to thank each of you for your efforts in cancer care, innovative clinical and discovery science research and education.
Earlier this year we celebrated a transformative $30 million legacy gift from the Mays Family Foundation. Their contribution has helped us to establish and recruit new clinical investigators, medical oncologists, hematologists, radiation oncologists, surgical oncologist, radiologists and pathologists to support our mission to end cancer and to better serve patients in San Antonio and South Texas.
In February, we officially launched our partnership with the MD Anderson Cancer Network® to provide greater access to the most advanced cancer treatments for our patients in our great community.
Additionally, we celebrate over a dozen new world-class scientists helping meet our scientific mission as an NCI-designated cancer center whose purpose is to decrease the burden of cancer in San Antonio and South Texas.
Our core purpose is patient-centered cancer care, across the entire enterprise of UT Health San Antonio with the delivery of care that is deeply tied to scientific advances rising from our cancer laboratories, investigators, and over 200 clinical trials. We have focused on developing a “virtual” cancer service line with shared leadership and engagement of all specialties involved with cancer care. These efforts are stewarded by a team focusing on advancing cancer prevention and screening, cancer care delivery, and supportive-palliative and survivorship care. The care we offer to patients is anchored in a patient-centered philosophy augmented by a deep partnership with the School of Nursing, and the development of patient care leadership teams helping to advance team-based cancer care across the cancer center. Additionally, our efforts are further supported by the significant renovations to the patient care spaces within the buildings of the Mays Cancer Center.
A centerpiece of this past year has been our partnership in cancer care with MD Anderson and our aim to deliver the “MD Anderson model” of cancer care. Central to this model are the multi-disciplinary clinics we have opened and plan to open, which are team-based with careful treatment planning for each new cancer case, taking advantage of all the disciplines involved in cancer care which include, surgical oncologists, radiation oncologists, medical oncologists, radiologists and pathologists. The treatment care plans follow MD Anderson’s protocols and patient care guidelines. This next year we will focus on close alignment and connection between San Antonio and Houston on disease group activities, molecular diagnostics, early phase clinical trials and post-therapy care.
In 2019, we eagerly prepare for the competitive renewal of our NCI Cancer Center Support Grant (CCSG) from which our NCI designation is derived. We celebrate continued success of transformational science from our cancer center in cancer development and progression, better cancer treatments, and population science and prevention.
This past year we additionally grew with important recruitments of investigators in DNA/genome repair, patient-centered nursing research, epidemiology and metabolomics. Significant efforts and resources have been invested in realigning the efforts and leadership structure of the clinical trials office to support our crucial trial portfolio. We saw extramural funding grow by 18 percent to $37 million, with many highly successful and highly impactful new grants in addition to progress on multi-physician-initiated funding projects.
We continue to have a strong focus on the cancer issues of our community. Under Dr. Amelie Ramirez’s leadership, the first Cancer in Latinos International Conference that was held in San Antonio in February. We anticipate another busy year as we prepare for CCSG renewal application with a strong emphasis on patient accrual growth from clinical trials that serve our patients, continuing to expand the impact of our cancer center on areas of DNA repair, cancer immunotherapy, early phase clinical trials and population-based cancer research.
UT Health San Antonio MD Anderson Cancer Center continues to be the leader in cancer education from high school, through multiple graduate programs, physician training and numerous training grants, and post-doctoral work.
Our center co-hosts the premier breast cancer symposia in the world with almost 8,000 attendees attending the 40th Annual San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposia held in December 2017.
Our robust continuing medical education portfolio includes events focusing on new cancer agents (February), and a crucial review meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) in June. We anticipate important new disease-based CME offerings this next year further demonstrating our leadership as the premier academic cancer center for San Antonio and South Texas.
Growing patient educational activities, in partnership with MD Anderson, will be a major emphasis this next year. Activities will range from high-quality materials delivered in an integrated education program to our patients, to a robust set of classes and programs in our newly constructed Wellness Center. On Jan. 12, 2019, we will host our very first “Living with Cancer San Antonio,” an event for 700+ cancer patients and family members to showcase our cancer program with both general educational sessions and disease specific breakout groups.
The 2019 academic year will be one of transformative growth, continued integration of our cancer service line, and a deepening of our partnership with MD Anderson that allows us to continue to deliver world-class cancer care. We are deeply grateful each and every day for the efforts, care and innovation of every nurse, physician, scientist, pharmacist, physicist, laboratory technician, medical assistant, employee and administrator. Together, we are on a mission to eliminate cancer in Texas, the nation, and the world.