Wilmot Cancer Center Celebrates Groundbreaking of New Facility

May 19, 2006

The James P. Wilmot Cancer Center today celebrates the start of construction of a new facility to expand local cancer care and research and lay the groundwork for national prominence.

“Today we celebrate the bright future of the Wilmot Cancer Center,” said Joel Seligman, President of the University of Rochester. “This new facility will stand as a shining example of the University's strong commitment to outstanding care and research.”

The state-of-the-art, 163,000-square-foot building doubles the amount of space for clinical and translational research and provides hope for cures as it brings scientists and doctors together to help engineer better therapies. It also provides patient access to a greater number of new, cutting-edge therapies and an unprecedented level of privacy.

“This new cancer center building raises the bar for cancer care and research here in Rochester and around the world,” said Richard I. Fisher, M.D., director of the Wilmot Cancer Center and cancer services for Strong Health. “We have outlined our vision, which is simple: We will take a leadership role in finding cures for cancer. All of our plans for the future of the James P. Wilmot Cancer Center are driven by that singular goal.”

The construction is underway at the corner of Crittenden Boulevard and East Drive, serving as the southeast anchor to the Medical Center campus. It is funded in part by a $42.5 million comprehensive campaign to support the expansion of clinical care and research and the recruitment of 25 additional clinicians and scientists to expand research at the University of Rochester Medical Center. Completion is expected in spring 2008.

To date, $21 million has been raised from community benefactors to support the effort, including lead gifts from the Feinbloom, Hansen and Wilmot families. The comprehensive campaign is being led by co-chairs Judy Wilmot Linehan of Pittsford, and James Ryan Jr., of Brighton. In addition to the comprehensive campaign, $4.5 million in federal funding has been received through Rochester’s Congressional delegation.

The campaign will support the Cancer Center’s $65 million strategic plan, which lays the foundation for capturing the National Cancer Institute designation as a comprehensive cancer center.

“The quality of care and innovation at the Wilmot Cancer Center is outstanding and we are committed to bringing new discoveries that will lead to cures,” said C. McCollister Evarts, M.D., CEO of the University of Rochester Medical Center.

The Cancer Center outgrew its existing facility long ago, forcing research operations to shift to other areas of the Medical Center and the relocation of the infusion center and oncology clinics to the Ambulatory Care Facility, on the other side of the campus.

The need for cancer care has grown dramatically in recent years and Wilmot has seen 15-20 percent increases in patient volume each year for the past four years. In 2005, oncologists provided care to 6,500 people, and that figure is expected to double by 2009. Each day, Wilmot doctors and nurses provide about 100 chemotherapy infusions and 110 radiation therapy treatments.

“Sadly, cancer incidence continues to rise,” Fisher said. “The good news is that with advances in therapies, we can successfully treat more people and allow them to experience an improved quality life.”

The new building and programs will allow people to stay close to home for the very best cancer care and accommodate a growing number of people from outside the region coming to Rochester for expert care. Wilmot has one of the largest clinical programs for lymphoma and leukemia in the Northeast and leads the nation in shaped-beam stereotactic radiosurgery to destroy tumors that were once considered untreatable.

The new facility was designed by Don Blair and Partners Architects and SWBR Architects to provide a more comfortable, private environment for patients and their families. The Pike Company is leading the construction project.

The new cancer center building will feature a three-story glass atrium at the entrance, allowing natural lighting to fill the facility. Patient care areas will be located on the ground and first floors, with easy access from the ramp garage that serves Strong Memorial Hospital.

Translational research laboratories – designed to bring discoveries from research labs to the patients’ bedsides – will be moved into the cancer center, allowing scientists and oncologists to talk about ideas, research and treatment outcomes. This model has proven effective in the nation’s elite cancer centers.

“It’s a logical model: When doctors work directly with scientists, breakthroughs for better treatments occur,” Fisher said. “We are creating an environment to foster greater ideas through cooperative research. We say ‘the cure starts here,’ and we mean it.”

Wilmot and URMC leaders have also set their sights on capturing the National Cancer Institute (NCI) designation as one of the top cancer centers in the nation. This important designation will bring additional funding for research to Wilmot, allowing for greater expansion of programs in the coming years.

“When you build clinical and research programs that demonstrate leadership within the cancer field, the National Cancer Institute recognizes those contributions by funding additional research and designating the center as one of the best in the country,” said Fisher, who worked at the NCI from 1972-84.

Finally, the expansion project would double the Wilmot Cancer Center’s current economic impact on the Finger Lakes region. A recent report from the Center for Governmental Research estimates the total number of jobs at the cancer center would increase to 1,200, with 700 additional indirect positions to support the operation. That would increase the cancer center’s impact on the total regional payroll to $71 million. And, in the short-term, the construction phase would create 750 jobs.

“This project will bring important advancements for people with cancer today and in the future, but it’s also good business for the Rochester community,” said campaign co-chair Ryan, of Ryco Management.

“We expect that creating one of the top cancer centers in the nation will bring more research funding, jobs and spin-off biotechnology businesses in Rochester. Health care and research are key to our local economy and this campaign will continue that growth,” Ryan says.

Linehan, whose father was James P. Wilmot, is co-chairing the campaign as part of her family’s commitment to advancing cancer care and research. Her father established The James P. Wilmot Foundation, which funds fellowship training in cancer care and research.

The Wilmot Cancer Center is the leader in cancer care, research and education in the Finger Lakes region. The team of 600 doctors, nurses, scientists and staff provide diagnosis and comprehensive, multidisciplinary clinical care for all forms of cancer. With oncologists who specialize in each cancer working closely with scientists, nurses and staff, the Wilmot Cancer Center is dedicated to a single mission: to beat cancer.

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Leslie White
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