In 2013 we implemented strategic programs and long-term approaches that can harness the power of big and innovative ideas — ideas that are revolutionizing how we understand and treat cancer.
Before going further, we would like to acknowledge that these achievements are made possible by the hard work, generosity of spirit, and creativity of our staff. They are unswerving in their dedication to advancing our knowledge of cancer, discovering more-precise ways to diagnose and treat it, and making the lives of our patients and their families as comfortable as possible. Our staff is the heart, soul, and engine of MSK.
The year began with the homecoming of José Baselga, our new Physician-in-Chief and Chief Medical Officer, who did a fellowship here in the 1990s and remained on the faculty for several years before returning to his native Spain. An internationally renowned physician-scientist and breast cancer expert, he joined us from Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH), where he was Chief of the Division of Hematology/Oncology and Associate Director of the MGH Cancer Center.
Dr. Baselga began his tenure with two key appointments. First, medical oncologist Paul Sabbatini was named Deputy Physician-in-Chief for Clinical Research and has led an extraordinary team in streamlining and accelerating MSK’s clinical trials process. We now have two Institutional Review Boards, doubling our capacity to do clinical trial reviews. We’ve seen remarkable decreases in the time between the review and approval of trials and are seeing a significant increase in trials, with more patients participating.
Later in the year, Dr. Baselga named gynecologic surgeon and Chief of the Gynecology Service Richard R. Barakat Deputy Physician-in-Chief for the Regional Care Network and MSK Cancer Alliance.
The Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Alliance, a unique initiative established to improve the quality of cancer care and the lives of cancer patients, was announced in 2013. Simultaneously, we introduced the Alliance’s first member, Hartford HealthCare, a five-hospital system in Connecticut. The MSK Cancer Alliance will allow more patients access to our clinical trials. It will also offer them the benefit of precision medicine as we translate molecular insights into innovations ranging from the latest diagnostic tests to targeted therapies. Clinical and administrative teams led by Dr. Barakat are now focusing on preparations to fully implement the program later this year.
Dr. Baselga brought energy and innovation to other important areas, including molecular oncology, and participated in MSK’s partnership with IBM in developing a powerful cancer resource. Built on the IBM Watson cognitive computing platform, it will provide medical professionals with improved access to current, comprehensive cancer data and practices. In collaboration with Executive Vice President and Chief Hospital Operating Officer Kathryn Martin, he also guided us through the Joint Commission accreditation review of both our hospital and clinical laboratories, for which we received outstanding marks.
The year concluded with the appointment of Joan Massagué as the Director of the Sloan Kettering Institute. An exemplary scientist whose research has produced results central to the understanding of cancer, Dr. Massagué has led SKI’s Cancer Biology and Genetics Program since 2003 and has been part of the SKI community since 1989, when he joined us as the Alfred P. Sloan Chair of SKI’s Cell Biology Program. His scientific acumen and invaluable expertise coupled with his ability to unite people will keep MSK at the forefront of cancer research.
During the national and international search for a new SKI director, we received strong interim leadership from Molecular Biology Program Chair Kenneth J. Marians and Molecular Pharmacology and Chemistry Program Chair David A. Scheinberg. Dr. Marians helped shepherd us through the National Cancer Institute’s review of our cancer research, also known as the Core Grant. It is a tribute to our entire community that we received a rating of “exceptional” and were awarded a full five- year renewal. Many people contributed to the success of our programs — and the grant submission itself. We thank them all.
Dr. Scheinberg led the effort to establish the Tri-Institutional Therapeutics Discovery Institute (Tri-I TDI), a unique partnership between MSK, Weill Cornell Medical College, and The Rockefeller University. The Tri-I TDI has entered into an initial partnership with Takeda Pharmaceuticals International, Japan’s largest pharmaceutical company, to assist investigators at the three institutions in developing small-molecule therapeutic agents and molecular probes for the treatment and diagnosis of cancer and other human diseases.
In recent years, scientists have shown that the mutations that give rise to cancer vary among people, even those with the same type of cancer. The identification of genetic and molecular targets in individual cancers can be used to help select effective therapies and create new ones. In 2013, MSK established several new centers to capture a tumor’s genetic information and exploit it to its full potential.
A transformative $100 million gift from the Marie-Josée and Henry R. Kravis Foundation allowed us to create the Marie-Josée and Henry R. Kravis Center for Molecular Oncology (CMO). This new center will make it possible to realize the promise of precision oncology and support the development of new, individualized cancer therapies and diagnostic tools. Among the aims of the CMO will be to analyze more than 10,000 patient tumors in the first year alone, with an eye toward offering molecular analysis for every type of cancer and for all MSK patients. Mrs. Kravis has been a member of MSK’s Boards of Overseers and Managers since 2000 and is Chair of the Board of the Sloan Kettering Institute.
With an initial commitment of $10 million, MSK Board member David M. Rubenstein paved the way for another ambitious initiative. Called the David M. Rubenstein Center for Pancreatic Cancer Research (CPCR), it brings together MSK’s outstanding physicians and an expanding group of scientists in an intensive program designed to speed progress in understanding and treating one of the deadliest types of cancer — and one that has been relatively understudied.
Also among MSK’s many accomplishments in 2013 were the development of important new treatments for prostate cancer and improved ways to diagnose leukemia, endometrial cancer, and salivary gland cancer, and the determination of the structure of a complex protein (mTOR) that plays a role in many forms of cancer.
While it is impossible to list all of MSK’s scientific achievements, one in particular deserves special mention. This year, Science magazine identified the development of immunotherapy for the treatment of cancer as the most important scientific advance of 2013 — in all fields. The magazine cited the efforts of two groups of MSK investigators as exceptional.
Singled out by Science was the collaborative preclinical and clinical work of Jedd D. Wolchok, Chief of our Melanoma and Immunotherapeutics Service, and immunologist James P. Allison (formerly at MSK, now at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston) in their development of a drug called ipilimumab (Yervoy™), approved by the FDA in 2011 for the treatment of metastatic melanoma. The other work came from Michel Sadelain, Director of the Center for Cell Engineering, and his colleagues Renier J. Brentjens, Director of Cellular Therapeutics, and Isabelle Rivière, Director of the Cell Therapy and Cell Engineering Facility. These investigators played a seminal role in the development of a major area of research highlighted by the magazine: a cell-based targeted immunotherapy called chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) therapy. Chimeric antigen receptors are a new class of drugs in oncology with the potential to be applied to many types of cancer.
In addition to the new approaches to therapy taken by our scientists, MSK infectious disease specialist Kent Sepkowitz has been appointed Deputy Physician-in-Chief for Quality and Safety. This newly created position highlights MSK’s commitment to continuing to lead in the development and implementation of a comprehensive quality of care program as well as increased dedication to a center-wide promotion of a culture of safety. Dr. Sepkowitz, who joined MSK in 1988 as a fellow in the Infectious Disease Service, has led the Hospital Infection Control program for the past 15 years and earned the trust and respect of staff members in every part of the institution. He will bring to this new role an ability to unite people in pursuit of an environment continually focused on quality.
Members of the Boards of Overseers and Managers have recently accepted new roles as well. Scott M. Stuart has been elected Chair of the Board of Managers of Memorial Hospital, and Louis V. Gerstner, Jr., formerly Vice Chair of the Boards of Overseers and Managers, has become Honorary Chair of the Sloan Kettering Institute and remains Chair of the Board of Gerstner Sloan Kettering Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. We are deeply grateful for the extraordinary and steadfast guidance Mr. Gerstner has provided to MSK in his many leadership roles since joining the board in 1977.
Richard I. Beattie, formerly Vice Chair of the Boards and Chair of the Board of Managers of Memorial Hospital, has become Honorary Chair of the Memorial Hospital Board. Mr. Beattie has our profound thanks for offering his acute intelligence and leadership as we carried out our mission at a time of significant change in the healthcare landscape.
MSK’s network of regional sites continues to develop, beginning with our new ambulatory care facility in Harrison, New York, slated to open this fall. Construction on the Josie Robertson Surgery Center on York Avenue is ongoing, and work will soon begin at the East 74th Street complex we are jointly developing with Hunter College of the City University of New York.
We are pleased with our 2013 financial results. Our investment and philanthropic revenues were strong, allowing us to invest in MSK’s future.
The title of this report — Transformations — perfectly characterizes and captures the past year. Indeed, “transformational” is the word we heard, time and again, on the lips of our clinicians, scientists, and other staff as they described their feelings about the progress we’ve made and what they know is to come.
We stand on the brink of opportunities in cancer research that are leading to discoveries inconceivable a mere decade ago. And today, the gifted men and women of Memorial Sloan Kettering are translating these discoveries into treatment realities. On the pages that follow, we invite you to join us on an inspiring journey into the future.