UR Medicine Launches Wilmot Cancer Institute, $30M Campaign for Cancer Research

May 08, 2014

UR Medicine today announced the creation of the Wilmot Cancer Institute, a new organizational structure for all of its clinical and research programs in cancer, including its growing network of satellite locations throughout the region. In addition, it announced a $30 million campaign to support cancer research.

The Wilmot Cancer Institute’s goal is to provide the highest level of care to individuals in Rochester and throughout western New York, by making the Institute’s expertise and capabilities available to patients closer to home. Research, and bringing scientific discoveries directly to patients, is also an integral part of the Institute’s mission.

“We want patients to see ‘Wilmot Cancer Institute’ and breathe a sigh of relief because they know they’re getting the best,” said Jonathan W. Friedberg, M.D., M.M.Sc., director of the Institute and Samuel E. Durand Chair, who has been in the top leadership position at Wilmot since July of 2012.

“Cancer care is so complex these days. It starts with a diagnostic process that often involves sophisticated tests and specialized skills, and continues through treatment decisions, follow-up care, and survivorship needs,” Friedberg said. “Our Institute brings that level of comprehensive and smart service every step of the way.”

With the Wilmot Cancer Center on the University of Rochester Medical Center campus as its hub, the new Institute now encompasses seven satellite cancer treatment facilities and all cancer research activities at the University.

“Wilmot has been thriving under Jonathan’s leadership, and it’s exciting to see so many important initiatives moving forward at a rapid pace,” said Bradford C. Berk, M.D., Ph.D., chief executive officer of UR Medicine and University senior vice president for health sciences. “He truly understands and pushes the Institute’s broad mission – to deliver exceptional care locally and regionally, and to be a leader in cancer research.”

Research, in fact, is a major element that separates Wilmot from other cancer providers in the area. In support of that effort, the Wilmot Cancer Institute is launching a $30 million research-focused fundraising campaign at its 15th annual Discovery Ball on Saturday, May 10. 

“Thanks to cancer research, patients have so many advantages that didn’t exist in years past,” said Hartmut “Hucky” Land, Ph.D., co-director of the Institute, director of research, and Robert and Dorothy Markin Professor. “This new campaign will provide the support to keep the momentum going and leverage opportunities to bring precision medicine to patients more quickly.” 

Philanthropists Richard T. Bell Sr., and Robert W. Kessler, are leading the campaign. Bell, a throat cancer survivor who was treated at Wilmot, established the Richard T. Bell Endowed Professorship in the Department of Radiation Oncology at Wilmot in 2011. Kessler is a longtime member of the Wilmot National Advisory Board; University Trustee Thomas C. Wilmot, Sr., whose family has supported cancer research for 30 years at the University of Rochester, will serve as honorary chair of the campaign. Gifts to the campaign will be used to establish endowed professorships, endowed research programs, seed grants, and unrestricted cash funds through the George Eastman Circle, the University’s leadership annual giving society.

A fast pace of change at the Wilmot Cancer Center in recent years fueled the decision to create the Institute structure. Here are some key events that have taken place under Friedberg’s and Land’s leadership:

  • Wilmot’s 100-member research team was strategically reorganized into four key programs: Hallmarks of Cancer (biology), Blood Cancers, Solid Tumors, and Cancer Control and Survivorship. This allows for better collaboration among scientists and between researchers and physicians, to benefit patients.
  • Wilmot opened the 5th floor of its inpatient cancer hospital, completing a vertical expansion. The Wilmot facility – a modern, glass-front building adjacent to Strong Memorial Hospital – opened in May of 2008 and includes outpatient services. Later, three inpatient floors were built atop the outpatient facility.
  • Wilmot launched the Judy DiMarzo Survivorship Program, the first comprehensive program in the Rochester region to provide expertise on coping with the long-term effects of cancer therapy, with the goal of improving quality of life for patients.
  • In December of 2012, Wilmot acquired the Pluta Cancer Center in Henrietta, adding 40 employees and more than 7,200 annual patient visits. 
  • In December of 2013, Wilmot purchased the assets of Interlakes Oncology and its offices in Greece, Brockport, Canandaigua, and Geneva, and entered into a contract with the physicians, nurses, providers, and administrators at Interlakes. The merger added 50 staff and 16,500 patient visits per year.
  • Wilmot is in formal discussions to purchase Batavia Radiation Oncology Associates. Plans include a renovation and expansion of the facility by adding a chemotherapy/medical oncology clinic. 

The strong track record of growth and improvements has boosted the number of outpatient visits to Wilmot by more than 60 percent since 2012. Outpatient volume is the biggest indicator of growth, since most patients today are treated for cancer without having to be admitted to a hospital.

In the calendar year 2012, Wilmot had approximately 39,100 outpatient visits for services such as medical oncology, radiation oncology, and breast care. By the end of 2013, after Pluta was on board and as Wilmot continued to grow, outpatient visits had jumped to more than 48,300. The projected number of outpatient visits for 2014 is 63,700, based on first quarter annualized figures, which includes services provided at Interlakes locations.

Inpatient hospital visits are also climbing, with many new patients coming to Wilmot from outlying areas.

The regional strategy allows all Institute oncologists and their patients to connect to Wilmot’s comprehensive services, including weekly tumor board sessions and other consultations; clinical trials; the UR Medicine e-record system; genomics testing and advanced diagnostic testing for certain cancers, which helps physicians to more precisely tailor treatments to a patient’s needs; a new cardiology/oncology program focusing on cancer-related heart problems; and palliative care to help patients and families decide on the best course toward the end of life.

“Our strong presence in the community has greatly expanded through an integrated network of care sites, with more to come,” Friedberg said. “This means that no matter where a patient lives in western New York, he or she will be able to receive the Wilmot Cancer Institute’s cutting-edge, precision cancer care.”

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Leslie Orr
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