Henry Ford Pancreatic Cancer Center Receives $16M Gift

Henry Ford Health System in Detroit has announced a $16 million gift to its Henry Ford Pancreatic Cancer Center, which was launched in 2018 by an initial $20 million gift from the same anonymous donor.
Henry Ford Cancer Institute
Henry Ford Health System in Detroit has announced a $16 million gift to its Henry Ford Pancreatic Cancer Center. / Image courtesy of Henry Ford Health System

Henry Ford Health System in Detroit has announced a $16 million gift to its Henry Ford Pancreatic Cancer Center, which was launched in 2018 by an initial $20 million gift from the same anonymous donor.

The new gift will bolster the new center’s clinical and translational research endeavors in the fight against pancreatic cancer, for which the five-year survival rate is 9 percent. The Henry Ford Pancreatic Cancer Center, now operating from Henry Ford Hospital, will move to the new Brigitte Harris Cancer Pavilion starting in January.

Connected to Henry Ford Hospital via a skywalk over West Grand Boulevard, the cancer pavilion will be the anchor for the Henry Ford Cancer Institute’s network of facilities and services throughout southeast Michigan.

“We are tremendously thankful for this combined $36 million gift, which not only launched the Henry Ford Pancreatic Cancer Center in 2018, but will further empower our world class clinicians and researchers to continue their pursuit of scientific discoveries that will improve the lives of many affected by this disease,” says Wright Lassiter III, president and CEO of Henry Ford Health System.

The gift advances the cancer center’s commitment to building key partnerships with internationally renowned organizations that share the health system’s vision to one day eradicate pancreatic cancer, Lassiter adds. In recent months, the center has established global partners who are working to identify early detection methods and novel patient-directed therapies.

A major focus of the research being led by the cancer center is the evaluation of preexisting patient radiographic data that may provide insight into earlier detection of pancreatic cancer, as well as the discovery of biomarkers that would allow for its earlier detection. Currently, approximately 80 percent of pancreatic cancer cases are diagnosed too late for a curative treatment to be possible.

“We are excited to bring together the world’s most innovative minds to accelerate the pace of discovery and understanding,” says Dr. David Kwon, clinical director of the cancer center. “With such generous funding, we are able to think outside the traditional research paradigms to create a foundational and innovative infrastructure of expert teams that would otherwise not be feasible.

“This allows us to attract premier scientists and establish collaborations with the world’s best researchers, clinicians, and industry leaders. The goal is to build a center that will continue to foster ground-breaking research in the fight against pancreatic cancer. We are also thrilled to announce that world renowned researcher, Howard Crawford, Ph.D., has joined the HFPCC as the new scientific director of this groundbreaking program.”

Crawford joins Henry Ford from the University of Michigan, where he served as the director of the Pancreas Research Program and held joint appointments in the Department of Molecular and Integrative Physiology and the Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Gastroenterology.

Crawford is a leading expert in the cell and molecular origins of pancreatic cancer and how chronic inflammation of the pancreas leads to pancreatic cancer development. He is the first of a team of scientists that will be joining the HFPCC in the coming months.

Research at the cancer center will be complemented by the clinical resources and organizational infrastructure of Henry Ford Health System to create a unique environment that fosters the discovery of scientific advancements. These include:

  • Henry Ford Cancer Institute, which is one of the largest cancer institutions in Michigan, treating more than 9,500 new cancer patients each year. In January 2021, Henry Ford Cancer Institute will open the Brigitte Harris Cancer Pavilion.
  • Henry Ford Innovation Institute, located on the campus of Henry Ford Hospital, which has cultivated an extensive global network, including relationships with health care leaders, entrepreneurs, and investors in Saudi Arabia, India, and Israel.
  • Henry Ford Cancer Institute’s Precision Medicine Program, which offers genomic testing and expertise of a molecular tumor board to cancer patients.
  • Henry Ford Health System’s participation in All of Us, a National Institute of Health Precision Medicine research program.

“Never in the history of medicine has there been a time with greater opportunity than right now to achieve breakthroughs in the fight against pancreatic cancer,” says Dr. Steven Kalkanis, CEO of Henry Ford Medical Group. “We believe the global research consortium led by Dr. Kwon and our Henry Ford Pancreatic Cancer Center is poised to flip the paradigm of this disease, and this gift will advance both our research into precision medicine and our standing as a world-class academic and research medical center.”

While pancreatic cancer is today rarely diagnosed early enough for curative treatment, there is promising research on the horizon that may change that, Kalkanis says.

To learn more about the cancer center, visit here.

In related news, the Henry Ford Cancer Institute and United Outstanding Physicians, a physician organization comprising nearly 1,000 independent private practice physicians across southeast Michigan, have come together to enhance cancer care and make navigating the cancer journey easier for their patients.

“Our partnership with United Outstanding Physicians will build upon the already exceptional care patients receive from both Henry Ford and UOP providers,” says Dr. Adnan Munkarah, chief clinical officer at Henry Ford Health System. “Through physician collaboration, and by using standardized protocols for excellence in cancer prevention, detection, and care, this alignment will not only ensure that patients have access to the most comprehensive and advanced cancer care available, but also ensure that patients can navigate their cancer journey more efficiently than ever before.”

Through the partnership, patients referred to Henry Ford Cancer Institute by UOP physicians will have a patient navigator to coordinate their care, answer questions that may arise, and help guide them through the treatment process.

“This is about making it easier for patients to receive personalized and integrated world class cancer care,” says Kalkanis. “A cancer diagnosis can feel overwhelming. We aim to help alleviate that feeling, which improves quality of life for the patient as they complete a treatment plan that is designed around their unique needs.”

Henry Ford Cancer Institute will collaborate with UOP physicians to provide a streamlined continuum of cancer resources and sub-specialists, from screening through survivorship. This will ultimately ensure that patients are referred to specialists who are the most well equipped to provide care for their specific needs in a patient-centric, value-based manner.

Henry Ford Cancer Institute and UOP also aim to provide education on ways individuals can reduce their risk of developing cancer, as well as detecting it early if it does develop.

“In addition to helping patients and their families optimally navigate and coordinate their cancer care, we are excited to work alongside UOP to increase awareness of the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle and getting the recommended cancer screenings,” says Dr. Benjamin Movsas, interim medical director of the Henry Ford Cancer Institute and chair of the Cancer Institute’s Radiation Oncology Department. “The cancer journey begins with prevention and early detection. Lifestyle choices and getting the recommended screenings are critically important for both.”

Founded in 1915, Henry Ford Health System today consists of six hospitals including Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit; Henry Ford Macomb Hospitals; Henry Ford Wyandotte Hospital; Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital; Henry Ford Allegiance in Jackson; and Henry Ford Kingswood Hospital in Royal Oak Township — an inpatient psychiatric hospital.

Henry Ford Health System also includes Henry Ford Medical Group; Henry Ford Physician Network with more than 250 outpatient facilities; Henry Ford Pharmacy; Henry Ford OptimEyes; other health care services; and Health Alliance Plan (HAP), which provides health coverage for more than 540,000 people.

As one of the nation’s leading academic medical centers, Henry Ford Health System trains more than 3,000 medical students, residents, and fellows annually in more than 50 accredited programs, and has trained nearly 40 percent of the state’s physicians. The education and research is supported by nearly $100 million in annual grants from the National Institutes of Health and other public and private foundations.

Henry Ford Health System employs more than 33,000 people, including more than 1,600 physicians, more than 6,600 nurses, and 5,000 allied health professionals.