In 2011, to fulfill the vision of the Ellen and Ronald Caplan Cancer Center to merge basic, translational and patient-oriented cancer research in a single scientific continuum, Wistar entered into a historic inter-institutional partnership with the Helen F. Graham Cancer Center & Research Institute (HFGCCRI), part of ChristianaCare in the state of Delaware. This was the first partnership between an NCI-designated “basic” Cancer Center and a Community Cancer Center, which is also a member of the NCI Community Oncology Research Program (NCORP).
Distinctive elements of the Wistar-Graham Cancer Center partnership include:
- Unique model of collaboration for patient-focused, translational cancer research
- No institutional redundancy or competition
- Opportunity to bring cutting-edge cancer research into the community (where 85% of oncology care is given in the U.S.)
- Potential for statewide impact in both DE and PA
- Access to a unique, treatment-naïve population of cancer patients
- Sustained institutional commitment from both organizations
- Strategic value added for both Institutions (opportunity for faculty recruitment, fundraising, medical education, and technology transfer)
- Convergence of basic and clinical research interests (immunotherapy, early diagnosis, new clinical trials)
Unique among community cancer centers, the Graham Cancer Center has developed an extensive infrastructure for translational and clinical cancer research including the statewide High-risk Family Cancer Registry, clinical trials, the Community Outreach Program, the Tissue Procurement Center, and the Cawley Center for Translational Cancer Research. Several key enabling steps that significantly contributed to the success of the Wistar-Graham Cancer Center partnership include: establishing a single IRB, a joint Translational Research Steering Committee, joint faculty appointment, and mechanisms for tissue sample accrual, transport and data transfer.
Governance. A Translational Research Steering Committee oversees all strategic and operational aspects of the Wistar-Graham Cancer Center partnership and actively promotes the development of collaborative projects between the two institutions. The Committee meets quarterly and is co-chaired by the Medical Director of the Helen F. Graham Cancer Center & Research Institute (Dr. Petrelli) and Wistar ‘s Ellen and Ronald Caplan Cancer Center.
Joint faculty appointment. Graham Cancer Center clinicians involved in collaborative projects with Wistar scientists have been appointed as affiliate members of The Wistar Institute Ellen and Ronald Caplan Cancer Center. Reciprocally, Wistar scientists involved in collaborative studies with the Graham Cancer Center have received joint faculty appointments at ChristianaCare. Codified criteria for Graham Cancer Center faculty appointments include: scholarly credentials, publications and oncology training; experience in clinical trial accrual and biobanking; commitment to attend meetings related to the Wistar-Graham Cancer Center collaboration; focus on clinical care in one or two major disease site areas; and previous basic or translational cancer research experience.