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A Destination Care Center

December 8, 2023

Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center is a destination care center. Other cancer centers refer patients with challenging cases to us, and people come to us seeking second opinions and second chances. We are also the first-choice option for many people who are newly diagnosed.

People with both commonly occurring cancers and rare cancers arrive here from across the United States and abroad because we have internationally renowned physicians working in multidisciplinary teams who provide highly personalized care. We realize that every person and every cancer case is different, so each of our treatment plans is tailored to meet individual needs. We offer our patients the latest innovations in cancer care and access to clinical trials for new and better treatments.

This issue of Momentum highlights some of our highly specialized physicians and details the stories of two of our patients, a 5-year-old boy with a rare pediatric liver cancer and a 64-year-old man with stage 4 colon cancer. We are a National Cancer Institute-Designated Comprehensive Cancer Center for both pediatric and adult patients — the only one in 

Tennessee — and one of only nine to have earned the prestigious Merit Extension Award from the National Cancer Institute in recognition of more than a decade of sustained exceptional progress.

This year, we celebrate the 30th anniversary of Vanderbilt University and Vanderbilt University Medical Center establishing our cancer center. The efforts of literally thousands of clinicians, scientists, community educators, donors and other supporters led to us becoming a center for destination care. A timeline in this issue of Momentum reflects on the milestones that led us to where we are today.

As we celebrate this anniversary, we remain forward focused. With the support of multiple donors and funding organizations, we have launched the P3 Catalyst Awards, an initiative that funds investigators who seek to challenge the status quo by pursuing research to achieve practice-changing, paradigm-shifting and policy-creating results. This issue details the first six research projects funded by this new initiative.

Another donor-supported program funds a research lab focused on finding new therapies for patients with metastatic prostate cancer whose cancer has recurred and become treatment resistant despite androgen deprivation therapy. Our research is not limited to laboratories. You can also read in this issue how a surgeon has developed 3D tools for real-time communication with pathologists from the operating room to improve information sharing about surgical margins.

Scientific achievements and medical breakthroughs are important factors for our success, but empathy is crucial to providing destination care. Our cancer survivors, like John Delworth, who shares his story in an essay, inspire us. Some care providers are also cancer survivors, including pediatric oncologist and physician-scientist Jason Schwartz, MD, PhD, who also shares his story. 

Upon reading this issue, I hope you will share my enthusiasm for our extraordinarily talented researchers and world-class experts in oncology care, who are mission driven to provide the most innovative treatments available with compassion and empathy. This is what makes Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center a destination care center — creative discoveries in the lab that are quickly translated for patient benefit and then widely disseminated to provide state-of-the-art personalized health care for all.