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Director's Message - Winter, 2014

Max S. Wicha, M.D.
Max Wicha, M.D., Director of the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center

Dear Friends,

Welcome to the winter edition of the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center e-newsletter. As the first snows fall, inside the Cancer Center U-M researchers continue their groundbreaking work, seeking to unravel some of the most complex mysteries of medical science.

In this issue, you’ll read about a new adrenal cancer phase 1 clinical trial — the result of many years of research by Tom Kerppola, Ph.D., and Gary Hammer, M.D., Ph.D. Rare and particularly deadly, adrenal cancer is a veritable “one-in-a-million” diagnosis. Read below to learn a bit more about the newly developed compound, ATR-101, and the study, which will take place here at Michigan and at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Texas.

We’re also highlighting a new method of capturing cancer cells in the bloodstream – a kind of “liquid biopsy” developed here at Michigan that is quickly becoming a significant new tool in cancer treatment.

You’ll learn about a generous new gift that will do much to ease the stress of cancer patients and their families here at the Cancer Center. Former Ford CEO Alexander J. Trotman would have been 80 years old this year; in his honor, his wife, Valerie, is making sure that people being treated here have access to care that addresses cancer’s psychological toll.

You’ll also find a recap of our recent GO Pink event in Detroit and so much more.

But I have something personal to share with you as well.

After 27 years of proudly leading the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center, I will be stepping down as the Center’s director.

I have chosen this time to allow for a new center director to prepare for the next NCI core grant renewal which will take place in 2016. A national search will be conducted to identify a new director and the search is expected to take about a year. However, I will remain as director until my successor is named, after which time I will continue both in my clinical practice and with my breast cancer research. My research program in cancer stem cells is now at a particularly exciting phase with the movement of this work into the clinic.

As we celebrate the Cancer Center’s 25th Anniversary, it is a wonderful time for me to reflect on our major achievements as well as a few challenges that we have faced over this quarter century. As you likely know, in 2012, the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center received more National Cancer Institute (NCI) funding than any other university-based cancer center, even as NCI funding for cancer research has declined steadily over the past several years. At the same time, the center’s clinical cancer programs have grown dramatically over the last decade and we have achieved patient satisfaction scores that rank among the best in the University of Michigan. During these past 25 years, we have witnessed remarkable advances in science and technology that hold the promise of revolutionizing cancer treatment.

While we celebrate our accomplishments together, I anticipate that the upcoming transition will provide an exciting opportunity for the Cancer Center to progress even further. I am confident that the excellent leadership and support of the Cancer Center will continue to enhance our mission locally and around the world.

The University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center is a remarkable place with its outstanding researchers and clinicians and those who support them. Thank you for your loyalty, generosity and long-standing support of our mission. We are positioned to remain at the forefront of a cancer revolution because of you, and I will be forever grateful for your devotion to the patients and families we serve.


Max S. Wicha, M.D.

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