Making Strides in Cancer Research and Treatment

A cancer diagnosis can be the scariest time in a person’s life. It’s a moment filled with uncertainty and fear, but SUNY has been working hard to alleviate some of these uncertainties and fears through cutting-edge research and treatment.

For example, the University at Albany has done extensive work with both the diagnostics and reatment of breast cancer. SUNY Old Westbury recently received a $75,000 grant to research prostate cancer. SUNY ESF is working on using nanoparticles to target cancer cells more specifically. And many SUNY schools have participated in countless fund-raising events for the American Cancer Society. But perhaps no campuses have done more to battle cancer than SUNY’s academic medical centers: University at Buffalo, Downstate Medical Center, Stony Brook University, and Upstate Medical University.

All four of these academic medical centers, teach, research and practice medicine. And that research is making strides. There is the ongoing collaboration between the world’s first cancer research institute, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, and the University at Buffalo Graduate School where UB recently received a $20 million federal grant for cancer research that partners UB researchers with Roswell Park Medical Professionals.

Stony Brook’s Cancer Center is committed to improving the understanding and delivery of cancer medicine and taking innovations from "bench to bedside." Stony Brook researchers suggest that targeting invasive cells may be a new strategy to treat metastatic cancer.   

And cancer research at Downstate Medical is progressing just as successfully. Research at Downstate covers a broad range of topics, with interests from understanding the molecular basis of tumorigenesis - control of cell growth and differentiation, angiogenesis, DNA damage and mutation - to epidemiology, cancer detection, treatment strategies, clinical trials, and community health education and outreach.   

Stony Brook and Downstate have also teamed up to expand their research efforts even further in battling cancer with their joint research to investigate gastrointestinal cancers. In addition, Upstate Medical University treatments are expanding as well with the most advanced diagnostic and treatment technology available to patients in central New York and beyond.

A Comprehensive Resource in Central New York

In July 2014, SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse opened the doors to its new Cancer Center. With this new building, the Cancer Center is able to offer the most advanced outpatient treatment, clinical research studies, and support services all in one convenient location. At the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Chancellor Zimpher told the assembled crowd that “Hope has a new home.” And she was right.

The Center houses the newest technologies to help patients. This means more opportunities for personalized, effective treatment with fewer side effects and better quality of life. In fact, Upstate offers patients the widest range of radiotherapy treatment options in the region. Recent investments include the Varian TrueBeam Radiotherapy System. Varian TrueBeam delivers radiation to tumors with extreme precision, sparing healthy tissue. And there is also the Vero Stereotactic Body Radiotherapy (SBRT) System. The Vero delivers tightly focused radiation to difficult-to-reach locations in the body. Upstate is one of three institutions in the nation that offer the Vero SBRT, which combines image-guided radiotherapy and real-time tumor tracking.

But Upstate Medical University had been working to save lives long before the creation of this facility. Take, for example, the story of Caroline. On October 31, 2009 Caroline did not find found herself dressed as a pumpkin celebrating her first Halloween, but at a hospital. 24 hours later her parents learned that their 9 month old baby had Leukemia. So they came to Upstate, the region’s only provider for children who have cancer. The Center for Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders at Upstate is part of the Children’s Oncology Group, an international group of pediatric oncology centers devoted to the state-of-the-art management of pediatric cancers. These national treatment regimens allow for the child to stay close to home, but receive the same treatments and recovery rates of high profile, national centers.

After rounds of treatment, on October 31, 2013 Caroline finally finished her chemo therapy. And when the newly renovated cancer center was completed Caroline and her family came to thank and congratulate the staff at Upstate Medical University.

Upstate wanted a way to share more stories like Caroline’s, and developed a magazine dedicated to assisting those whose lives are touched by cancer. This publication highlights how the experts at Upstate Cancer Center are caring for patients and searching for cures.

And they are quite the experts. With over 90 board-certified physicians who work beside hundreds of additional cancer experts, from nurses to scientists, nutritionists, social workers, therapists, epidemiologists and spiritual care providers, Upstate is saving lives in this generation and educating those who will save lives in the next. And not just with treatment, but also through groundbreaking research. The Upstate Cancer Research Institute is a multidisciplinary enterprise, encompassing the efforts of more than 120 Upstate faculty and collaborators at other institutions, with the goal to translate research into potential cures and technologies. 

With so many advancements in teaching, research, and treatment across the university, it’s no wonder that SUNY has a global reputation in health. Each day SUNY institutions work hard to improve the lives of students, patients, and New Yorkers everywhere.

Published November 2015