The year 2011 was a strong one at Memorial Sloan Kettering. We continued to lead across the spectrum of patient care, research, and training, and laid the groundwork for important progress in the years ahead.
We want to begin by saying that our success as an institution is due in great measure to our remarkable staff. On a daily basis, we are inspired by their dedication and compassion, and are grateful for the work they do in the service of our patients and our mission.
In 2011 Memorial Sloan Kettering was recognized for excellence in a number of areas, several of which you will read more about in this report. But allow us to highlight a few:
A study led by Boston University and published in February in the New England Journal of Medicine ranked Memorial Sloan Kettering as one of the top three public-sector research organizations in the discovery of new therapeutic products, behind the National Institutes of Health’s intramural program and the ten-campus University of California. This is a remarkable achievement, especially for an institution of our size.
In 2011 we continued to break new ground in our clinical and research activities. As a result of work done by our scientists and physicians we saw several tremendous advances in new treatments — in particular for metastatic melanoma and prostate cancer. Memorial Sloan Kettering investigators played a pivotal role in the development of three new targeted therapies, all of which received approval from the US Food and Drug Administration. They are changing the standard of care in these diseases, and you will read more about them in the following pages.
Basic science advances in 2011 were wide-ranging. Among many accomplishments, Memorial Sloan Kettering investigators pioneered insights into stem cell biology and its implications for translational medicine; provided a deeper understanding of how DNA integrity is maintained during cell division and reproduction; and made a breakthrough toward developing a computer method to predict a protein’s shape from its genetic sequence, which could speed research in cancer and other diseases. Again, you will read about these developments on the pages that follow.
As a part of the ongoing revitalization of our Manhattan campus — and with generous support from The Robertson Foundation — we announced plans to build the Memorial Sloan Kettering Josie Robertson Surgery Center on York Avenue between East 61st and East 62nd Streets. Named in honor of the late Josephine “Josie” Robertson, who was elected to Memorial Sloan Kettering’s Board of Overseers in 2004, this new 16-story building will feature 12 operating rooms equipped to provide technologically sophisticated surgical care on an outpatient basis.
Phase II of the Zuckerman Research Center proceeded on schedule and the academic staff of the Louis V. Gerstner, Jr. Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and our Computational Biology Program moved in. We anticipate the building will be completed by the winter of 2012.
In addition, we received approval to begin construction on a new regional facility in Harrison, New York. This freestanding center will join our family of ambulatory oncology centers, providing local access to Memorial Sloan Kettering care for patients who live in Westchester County and surrounding areas.
There were three pieces of important news about collaborations with institutions beyond our walls. Along with our clinical partners — NYU Langone, Montefiore, and Mount Sinai Medical Centers and Continuum Health Partners — and our for-profit partner — 21st Century Oncology — we will develop the New York Proton Center. It will be the only proton therapy center in the city. The precision of this technology allows clinicians to safely deliver larger, more targeted — and therefore more therapeutically effective — doses of radiation to tumors.
Memorial Sloan Kettering is also playing a key role in the development of the New York Genome Center, which will be located in lower Manhattan. We join The Rockefeller University, Weill Cornell Medical College, Columbia University, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, Mount Sinai Medical Center, New York University, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratories, Stony Brook University, and the Jackson Laboratories as founding members. The center will provide genome sequencing, computational, and bioinformatics support vital to all aspects of today’s life sciences research — from basic to translational.
And in an exciting joint undertaking with IBM, we are working to create what will ultimately be the world’s most comprehensive, cancer-specific medical resource tool designed to help physicians — wherever they practice — personalize cancer therapies for their patients. Built on the IBM Watson technology, the project will combine the tremendous analytic capabilities of IBM Watson with the clinical expertise of Memorial Sloan Kettering’s physicians, along with our vast repository of cancer case histories and other data. We expect to begin training the tool with a select group of oncologists in late 2012.
We were also delighted to celebrate the awarding of doctoral degrees to the first four graduates of the Louis V. Gerstner, Jr. Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at our Commencement and Academic Convocation on May 12, 2012. Three of the four students successfully defended their theses in 2011, and one in the spring of 2012.
During 2011 Memorial Sloan Kettering’s operating performance improved. We continue to increase our clinical volume and provide a larger portion of our clinical care in a more cost-effective outpatient setting, which has the added benefit of being more convenient for our patients. We are also pleased that the financial markets have allowed Memorial Sloan Kettering to raise a significant amount of capital funding with favorable financial terms. This funding will be used to provide a portion of the capital necessary for our clinical expansion program. In this year’s report we have chosen to feature ten research and clinical advances of 2011. We hope these features convey the vitality and collaborative creativity of our basic science investigators and physician-scientists as they work to further the biological understanding of cancer and develop new and more‐effective approaches to treatment.