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Zayed Building opens doors to state-of-the-art personalized cancer research

The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center recently welcomed His Highness Sheikh Hamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Chairman of the Crown Prince Court of Abu Dhabi; His Excellency Mohamed Haji Al Khoori, Director General of the Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Foundation; and H.E. Yousef Al Otaiba, United Arab Emirates Ambassador to the United States, to dedicate the Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan Building for Personalized Cancer Care. Construction was made possible through a $150 million grant by the Khalifa Foundation in 2011 to accelerate the pace of personalized cancer therapies and pancreatic cancer research.

The 12-floor, 628,652-square-foot Zayed Building for Personalized Cancer Care, now in the second phase of construction, is designed to integrate the delivery of basic and clinical research to support personalized cancer care and pancreatic cancer research. It houses the Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Institute for Personalized Cancer Therapy, the Sheikh Ahmed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Center for Pancreatic Cancer Research, and molecular diagnostics, histocompatibility and molecular pathology research laboratories.

The Khalifa Foundation grant also funds three distinguished university chairs as well as a Faculty Scholar program to advance the discovery and delivery of effective and accessible personalized cancer treatments.

“The dedication of the Zayed Building marks a significant milestone for MD Anderson and the patients we serve around the world,” said Ronald A. DePinho, M.D., president of MD Anderson. “This transformational gift from the Khalifa Foundation will be remembered for generations as our worldleading researchers and clinicians make practice-changing discoveries that will help end this devastating disease. We are grateful to the foundation for its visionary contribution to Making Cancer History.”

Delivering on the promise of personalized cancer care

The Khalifa Institute for Personalized Cancer Therapy at MD Anderson is a comprehensive program to individualize cancer care so each patient may receive treatments that target the genetic and molecular abnormalities in his or her tumor. Its research produces knowledge others at MD Anderson and in pharmaceutical companies can use to develop new targeted drugs and antibodies to provide customized, more effective treatments for future individual patients.

The goal is to define the new standard of patient care, making personalized cancer therapy a standard by:

• Rapidly implementing expanded molecular pathology laboratories, technology, instrumentation and infrastructure for personalized clinical trials.

• Developing best practices for obtaining and managing patient biopsies and specimens to implement personalized cancer therapy.

• Positioning MD Anderson to lead the way in therapeutic clinical trials based on underlying genomic and molecular alterations in patients’ cancers.

• Establishing broad collaborations to enhance the ability to rapidly transform discoveries into clinical practice and standard of care.

“Personalized cancer therapy holds tremendous promise for the future of cancer care,” said John Mendelsohn, M.D., immediate past president of MD Anderson and director of the Khalifa Institute for Personalized Cancer Therapy. “The Khalifa Foundation’s generosity enables us escalate progress exponentially and will play a critical role in our efforts to employ the most effective cancer treatment for each individual patient, every time.”

Progress in pancreatic cancer research

The Ahmed Center for Pancreatic Cancer Research is dedicated to accelerating scientific discovery that will make a pivotal impact on pancreatic cancer, which is rising in incidence yet remains significantly underfunded compared to other disease sites. The Ahmed Center brings together investigators with shared vision and fosters a culture of collaboration and exchange of ideas. Its researchers seek to discover and develop ways to detect pancreatic cancer earlier and treat it more effectively. Specific aims are:

• Understanding mutations in pancreatic cancer using cell line and newly developed preclinical models.

• Developing a liquid biopsy platform for early detection and therapeutic stratification of pancreatic cancer.

• Evaluating novel therapies using biologically relevant preclinical models.

“Thanks to the Khalifa Foundation, we have an opportunity to build the best pancreatic cancer group in the country, bringing MD Anderson’s basic scientists, oncologists, surgeons, radiologists and pathologists under a single umbrella,” said Anirban Maitra, M.B.B.S., director of the Ahmed Center for Pancreatic Cancer Research and Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Distinguished Chair in Cancer Research. “Our goal is to do meaningful translational research in one disease. Integrated, multidisciplinary research and patient care will allow MD Anderson to become the vanguard place for pancreatic cancer treatment and research.”