Marion McCloud has heard many compliments on “Pathways,” the new mural created in the Fox Chase cafeteria by Meg Saligman and Emilie Ledieu of Philadelphia’s Mural Arts Program. Cafeteria-goers particularly admire its luminous stained-glass panels, the cashier says. But many are curious about the depictions of human eyes scattered throughout the colorful mosaic.
With a background palette of muted sea, sky, and forest hues surrounding 16 backlit panels, the mural soothes and stimulates. The eyes, in varying sizes and colors, peer from throughout the wall-length installment.
If only Baruch S. Blumberg were here to explain. His philosophies helped to inspire the eyes and “a host of thematic ideas” included in the mural, Saligman said at the project’s unveiling in January 2012. The Nobel laureate was not there to see it; he died in April 2011 at 85.
Blumberg, whose storied career at Fox Chase spanned 47 years, received the Nobel prize in medicine in 1976 for his identification of the hepatitis B virus. He went on to create a vaccine against the disease that is believed to have saved hundreds of millions of lives.
Saligman, who talked to Fox Chase faculty and staff members before starting the project, said speaking with Blumberg was especially inspiring and his perspective formed the backbone for the mural’s "pathways" theme. Whether physician, scientist, or patient, he told her, “we are all on a journey” as we find the way through illness to healing.
The artist had asked him, “What does it take to make a big discovery?”
A hundred thousand man-hours?
A hundred questions?
“You just have to look,” he'd said.
Saligman had thought, That’s what a good artist does. She hit upon the idea of the eyes. For models, she used Fox Chase doctors, scientists, and staff members, as well as patients and their families.
An eternally curious scientist and humanist, Blumberg spent his life looking—intently. Following his death, Fox Chase scientist Thomas London, Blumberg’s longtime friend and colleague, defined the essence of Blumberg’s scientific approach as “the belief that you best understand nature by observing it directly and as closely and critically as you can.”
As new generations of Fox Case doctors and scientists look for their own pathways, the eyes watching them will serve as a reminder of what one sharp observer would have said:
You just have to look.
Fox Chase marked a major milestone in December when it entered into an agreement to affiliate with Temple University Health System, which is part of Temple University, a public education and research institution.
As part of TUHS, Fox Chase will retain its identity and mission while enhancing its ability to expand patient care and recruit researchers.
“Fox Chase is proud to be home to some of the most talented and compassionate scientists and doctors working on the cancer problem in the world,” says Michael V. Seiden, Fox Chase president and CEO (shown at far right with TUHS president Larry Kaiser). “But we’re always working to strengthen our ability to pursue our mission to prevail over cancer, and we believe this affiliation will do just that.”
The health system will invest in cancer research at Fox Chase, providing resources to recruit additional scientists who will further advance knowledge about the prevention and treatment of cancer and cancer-related conditions. The affiliation also will enable Fox Chase to significantly expand its outpatient and surgical-care services, both within its existing facilities and through the use of space in adjacent Jeanes Hospital, also a TUHS affiliate.
A closing slated for July will finalize the affiliation.
More and more cancer patients are turning to the Internet to find out where to seek cancer care, but even the savviest web surfer may have trouble figuring out which facilities provide the best chance for success. In January, Fox Chase became one of the first cancer centers in the country to release its clinical outcomes data, or patient survival statistics, to the public.
“We are committed to helping the public become more informed when making decisions about their health care,” says Michael V. Seiden, president and CEO of Fox Chase. “While individual outcomes cannot be predicted, we hope this data will enable patients to make choices that are right for them, ensuring that they receive the best care possible.”
Five-year survival statistics for the four most common cancers in the United States—breast, colorectal, lung, and prostate—at all four stages are available on the Fox Chase website at foxchase.org/outcomes. Results for Fox Chase patients are compared to those treated at large and small community hospitals. In nearly all categories, Fox Chase patients survive longer.
In March, Fox Chase geneticist Beatrice Mintz received the sixth annual Szent-Györgyi Prize for Progress in Cancer Research. The prestigious award from the National Foundation for Cancer Research recognized Mintz for pioneering the creation of chimeric mice, in which genetically different cells coexist in the same animal, and transgenic mice, into which a foreign gene has been transferred.
Mintz’s work has enabled her and many other scientists to identify links between development and cancer and to explore the biology of cancer over the lifetime of an animal. In addition, her research has provided important insights into the relationship between cancer cells and neighboring cells and molecules.
“Dr. Beatrice Mintz’s ground-breaking research has changed the way scientists are able to investigate the progression and metastasis of cancers and shed light on this disease,” noted Peter K. Vogt, who chaired the award committee. “Her contributions to the field of cancer research are remarkable.”
Mintz used her techniques to produce the first transgenic mouse model of malignant melanoma—a genetically engineered mouse whose cancer resembles the disease found in humans.
Fox Chase strengthened its identity as a leader in personalized cancer care when it established a collaboration with the biotechnology company Life Technologies in June. The agreement is a step toward launching the Cancer Genome Institute, a program that will provide individualized genomic analysis with the help of the firm’s sequencing instruments.
Beginning in late 2012, the institute will use the leading-edge technology to compare the genetic profiles of individual patient tumors against a panel of 46 known cancer-related genes. Patients with advanced cancers can elect to be examined for those genetic abnormalities, with the potential of being matched to established and experimental therapies.
The Cancer Genome Institute will make Fox Chase one of the first centers to offer individualized genomic analysis to cancer patients.
Jenny Pickworth Glusker’s nearly 60-year career as a chemist was sparked when she received her first chemistry set as a young girl during World War II. Now the researcher, who has been at Fox Chase for 50 years, has received one of the most prestigious awards in the field—the John Scott Medal, which she accepted in November in Philadelphia.
Named for a renowned Scottish chemist, the award has special meaning for Glusker, whose mother was Scottish. It also places her in the company of fellow recipients such as Marie Curie and Thomas Edison, who also made exceptional contributions to the “comfort, welfare and happiness of mankind.”
In particular, Glusker was honored for her contribution to the discovery of the chemical formula for B12, an essential water-soluble vitamin found in a variety of foods and human cells. This important milestone in chemistry, which Glusker worked on as a graduate student at Oxford University, unlocked the shape of the largest molecule known at the time and, ultimately, the clues to how it functions.
“I just did what chemists love to do—find out how and why things work,” Glusker says.
While the focus of most visits to Fox Chase is treatment or testing, a program launched in 2011 brings community members to the Center's campus for discussions about cancer and cancer experiences.
"Cancer Conversations," a series of public talks and presentations, kicked off with readings by two authors in 2011, followed by a screening and discussion with a documentary filmmaker in February.
"We want to educate and support people who are affected by or interested in cancer," says vice president for communications Franklin Hoke. "This series brings members of the community to Fox Chase to engage with an enriching experience, regardless of whether they are facing an illness."
To date the program has focused on survivorship. Authors Susan Conley and Kelly Corrigan wrote acclaimed memoirs about their breast cancer experiences, while Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist John Kaplan filmed his struggle with a rare form of lymphoma.
In an area bustling with top-tier medical institutions, Fox Chase's doctors once again ranked among the best, according to Philadelphia magazine. The publication's annual "Top Doctors" issue, released in May, highlighted 31 Fox Chase physicians of varying specialties—or nearly one in four of the Center's physicians.
The annual list features area doctors who are peer-nominated and then screened by physician-led research teams based on criteria such as education and experience.
The issue also provides a glimpse into the life of nurses with its cover story, "What Nurses Wish You Knew," which features two veteran Fox Chase staffers. Joanne Hambleton, then-vice president for nursing and patient services, and Theresa Pody, clinical director of inpatient medical oncology, answered questions as part of a panel of the region's top nurses. "We always feel we have to fix things," Pody noted. "Sometimes you don't have to fix anything. You just have to be there."
Fox Chase's Risk Assessment Program—one of the first in the country to provide personalized prevention education and early detection for cancer patients—celebrated 20 years of service in 2011. Formerly known as the Margaret Dyson Family Risk Assessment Program, the initiative has helped more than 13,000 individuals at heightened risk for breast, ovarian, prostate, gastrointestinal, and lung cancers, as well as melanoma.
"We are extremely proud of how far we've come," says program founder Mary B. Daly, head of clinical genetics. "We have seen a number of milestones during this period, including new screening methods such as breast MRI. As genetic mapping advances, we expect to build upon our current knowledge and offer patients an even greater understanding of their risk and increased prevention and treatment options."
An anniversary celebration in November convened patients, families and healthcare experts at the studios of local NPR affiliate WHYY-FM. The event featured a panel discussion with Daly and other experts, as well as videos highlighting the experiences of program participants.
Thanks to the Fox Chase Cancer Center Partners program, a select group of community hospitals in Pennsylvania and New Jersey is able to provide the latest in cancer research, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment in their own communities. Founded in 1986 as Fox Chase Network, the program was the first in the country to connect an NCI-designated cancer center with local community hospitals in order to increase accessibility to expert care. The program celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2011.
"The initial focus for developing the program was to offer excellent cancer care close to home for patients who were unable or didn't want to drive the extra distance to Fox Chase for expert treatment," says Paul F. Engstrom, chief network officer emeritus at Fox Chase, who noted that the program has gone on to improve research opportunities and quality assurance at Partner hospitals.
Colleagues honored Engstrom, who was instrumental in establishing the program, for his years of extraordinary leadership and dedicated service at an anniversary celebration in October.
Fox Chase built on its reputation as a great place to work for postdoctoral researchers in 2011 with help from The Scientist magazine, which once again ranked the Center highly in its annual "Best Places to Work for Postdocs" survey.
The only top-ranked institution in Pennsylvania, Fox Chase ranked eighth in the country according to the survey, which asks researchers to consider factors such as working conditions, benefits, and family and personal life. Communication and career development opportunities were cited as particular strengths of the institution, whose ranking improved by four places over the previous year.
Fox Chase is currently home to nearly 70 postdoctoral researchers.