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Curing Cancer Bench to Bedside

doctor and patient discuss cancer treatment

Judy Garber, M.D. with Anne and Dick Tonachel

Dana-Farber's 50-50 balance is unique among cancer centers: an equal dedication to scientific discovery and patient care. Scientists are inspired by the belief that their efforts might save, or improve, the life of a patient just a few steps away from the lab. Similarly, clinicians can easily consult with basic scientists to better understand the molecular mechanisms behind a certain type of cancer or treatment.

But it takes more than imagination to see the makings of a better treatment for cancer. Dana-Farber’s home for patient care and clinical research, the Yawkey Center for Cancer Care, stands next to the Richard A. and Susan F. Smith Research Laboratories. These buildings are connected via enclosed bridges containing meeting areas to foster conversation between physicians and scientists.

The proximity of these facilities means that, in the everyday process of going to and from work or visiting colleagues elsewhere in the Institute, scientists routinely encounter the ultimate beneficiaries of their efforts — patients and their families.

Dana-Farber has created an infrastructure to foster translational work – a kind of transmission system to move basic science advances from the lab to the clinic. The essence of this system is collaboration – the novel approaches and serendipities that occur when the best minds in different fields work toward a common goal.

Clinical Research: Patients as Partners in Discovery

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute researcher

Michael Goldberg, Ph.D. Cancer Immunology & Aids

Nowhere is Dana-Farber’s balance between cancer research and care more visible than in clinical research. Partnering with colleagues at other Harvard Medical School affiliated hospitals, Dana-Farber investigators are heading up over 1,100 clinical trials – studies that involve approximately 4,000 adult and pediatric patients.

The Clinical Research Center (CRC), an expanded unit within our Yawkey Center for Cancer Care, is specifically designed for patients enrolled in advanced, complex trials. Staffed by a team of nurses trained in the requirements of such studies, the CRC provides state-of-the-art care in a setting tailored to patients’ needs.

By enrolling in clinical trials, patients become partners in discovery. Their involvement enables new agents are effective and which aren’t – critical information for the development of future generations of cancer therapies.

Population Sciences: Studying Cancer with a Wider Lens

An important group of scientists at Dana-Farber do not use microscopes or examine patients, yet their research findings are central to the understanding of cancer. They are the scientists who study populations to find ways to detect cancer early, lower risk, prevent cancer when possible, and lessen its burden on patients and families.

Through their work, population scientists help Dana-Farber view cancer care with a wider lens, evaluating cancer’s ripple effect on various communities.

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