Message From Dr. Lippman

Dr. Scott Lippman

Dr. Scott Lippman

Dr. Scott Lippman is the director of Moores Cancer Center. Find out more about him.

La Jolla Light columns

Dr. Lippman's column on medical advances from the front lines of cancer research and care appears in the La Jolla Light the fourth Thursday of each month. Read them here:

A Year of Change and Growth

July 2013

In May I celebrated my first anniversary as director of UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center. It has been a most exciting and productive year. I believe we are making phenomenal progress in advancing cancer research and care. After a year as director, I am still in awe of the outstanding science and treatment being conducted here.

Personalized cancer therapy initiative

In this first year, I have collaborated with members of Moores Cancer Center to create and implement a five-year strategic plan with a rededicated mission to enhance and save lives by transforming cancer prevention, detection and care. With the recent arrival of Razelle Kurzrock, MD, an internationally acclaimed physician-scientist specializing in early phase clinical trials and personalized medicine, we created the Center for Personalized Cancer Therapy. A generous leadership gift of $1 million from Joan and Irwin Jacobs will jump-start these efforts. The donation will help bring personalized cancer therapy to our patients.

This initiative offers an important tool in our arsenal against cancer by tailoring treatment to a patient’s individual cancer using molecular testing of a tumor’s genetic profile, and review of the case by the new Molecular Tumor Board. To support the effort to bring personalized medicine to our patients, we created two new research core facilities – the Biorepository and Tissue Technology, and the Genomics and Bioinformatics shared resources – both of which are critical to exploring and advancing new knowledge of targeted cancer therapies. In addition, we launched the My Answer to Cancer public awareness and development campaign to increase visibility about the impact of personalized medicine.

New faculty members and facility improvements

To move cancer treatment even further and faster to our patients, last year we recruited 10 outstanding new oncology faculty members with a mix of clinical and research experience in medical, surgical and radiation oncology. Recently, we hired four new physicians to join the palliative care team. We also strengthened Moores Cancer Center psychosocial services team by recruiting a national leader in psychiatry as the new program director, along with another psychiatrist and additional psychologists. Additionally, we are taking major strides to optimize the experience of patients and their families by creating an environment that focuses on their needs through the creation of a new patient advocate position and a patient experience office. We also recruited a new nursing director with 17 years of oncology experience to oversee all nursing staff at the cancer center and improve efficiency.

To accommodate this growth and ensure patient access to these great services, we needed to expand our facilities. To that end, we upgraded our clinic resources by creating a Breast Cancer Clinic in the Perlman Ambulatory Facility and integrated two cancer centers in north San Diego County (Encinitas and Vista) into the UC San Diego Health System cancer program. Last, we are in the process of adding 12 infusion chairs at Moores Cancer Center to increase capacity for chemotherapy patients. These enhancements in our clinical services, space and faculty will enable us to offer cutting-edge cancer therapy to more patients in a timely manner.

Groundbreaking research and partnerships

Research into basic, translational and clinical sciences is critical to improving patient outcomes. Our strategic plan moves us squarely in that direction. The recruitment of Napoleone Ferrara, MD, a National Academy of Science member who discovered vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and made the first VEGF antibody – which suppresses growth of tumor blood vessels – will create new collaborative opportunities both within Moores Cancer Center and in the industry. Dr. Ferrara was awarded the $3 million Breakthrough Prize one month after arriving here in January. In March we learned that Technetium Tc-99m tilmanocept, the radioisotope-tagged imaging dye that more effectively identifies and maps cancer cells during cancer surgery, received FDA approval. This is the first such discovery that was designed and developed by researchers at Moores Cancer Center to receive FDA approval. There are other Cancer Center discoveries in the pipeline awaiting potential FDA approval in the near future.

Innovation and participation in ground-breaking advances in cancer care require team science, including partnerships with other like-minded institutions. We joined with Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute and The Salk Institute for Biological Studies to create the San Diego National Cancer Institute Cancer Centers Council or “C3.” We also entered into a consortium agreement with San Diego State University to collaborate on population science and prevention projects. We are laying the foundation for the future as researchers from academia and industry partner to build and occupy the Center for Novel Therapeutics (CNT). The CNT will incubate scientific discovery and speed development of clinical testing of cancer therapeutics. When completed in 2016, the 110,000-square-foot CNT will rise in the UC San Diego Science Research Park, just east of Moores Cancer Center.

In addition, this year we became members of two preeminent organizations, the National Comprehensive Cancer Network® and the Worldwide Innovative Network. By collaborating with experts around the world, we can accelerate the speed of innovation and bring new treatments to the forefront. To accomplish this, we need philanthropic financial support. We joined our C3 partners, Sanford-Burnham and Salk, to launch Pedal the Cause San Diego, a weekend cycling fundraiser organized by Bill Koman, incoming chairman of Moores Cancer Center Board of Visitors. Taking place October 26 and 27, Pedal the Cause is for riders of all abilities and brings together the C3, the private sector and a broad array of the San Diego community to raise awareness and funding for cancer research at the C3. The October event supports cancer research at all three campuses. We are also working closely with other cancer researchers at the La Jolla Institute for Allergy & Immunology, the Venter Institute and The Scripps Research Institute.

U.S. News & World Report rankings

Moores Cancer Center is clearly on a trajectory to be one of the foremost cancer centers in the United States. It is already one of 41 National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer centers in the country. U.S. News & World Report placed UC San Diego Health System #1 in the San Diego metropolitan area with national rankings in 10 specialties including cancer—placing it among the country’s most prestigious institutions. There are very few places in the world with this level of scientific depth and experience. These are but a few of the developments of this past year. There is much more to follow in the upcoming year. I deeply thank you for your support in this incredibly busy and fruitful first year as director.

This update was featured in Moores Cancer Center's July 2013 email newsletter. If you don't receive it, you can subscribe here

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