Henry Ford Health to build new cancer center with $20 million anonymous gift

The Henry Ford Pancreatic Cancer Center will focus on various initiatives that hope to yield earlier detection.

Beth Jones Sanborn, Managing Editor

The new pancreatic cancer center will be part of the Brigette Harris Cancer Pavilion, slated to open in 2020. - Credit: Henry Ford HealthThe new pancreatic cancer center will be part of the Brigette Harris Cancer Pavilion, slated to open in 2020. - Credit: Henry Ford Health

Henry Ford Health System will launch a new pancreatic cancer center following a $20 million anonymous gift. The Henry Ford Pancreatic Cancer Center will focus on global collaborations to develop new early detection methods.

The funds will help to establish partnerships with national and international organizations in the hope of identifying methods to detect pancreatic cancer earlier. These partnerships could also bring potential for additional financial resources, Henry Ford Health said.

"While we've made incredible advances in cancer diagnosis and treatment, where some types of cancer are now curable, pancreatic cancer remains nearly a universally fatal diagnosis," said Steven Kalkanis, medical director of Henry Ford Cancer Institute and Department of Neurosurgery chair. "One of the challenges is pancreatic cancer is often diagnosed late, generally at an advanced stage, making it difficult to treat. If we are going to move the needle, we need a global crowdsourced effort to diagnose pancreatic cancer earlier and give patients a fighting chance for survival."

Director of Surgical Oncology for Henry Ford Cancer Institute David Kwon will help oversee the new cancer center. It's efforts will focus on several areas including expanding the number of identified biomarkers in pancreatic cancer and translating them into screening tests to detect pancreatic cancer earlier, leveraging artificial intelligence to analyze clinical medical records and radiologic studies to pinpoint patterns in patients' medical records that may alert providers to the early diagnosis of pancreas cancer and developing investigator-initiated clinical trials to advance pancreatic cancer treatment.

It will also establish a multi-institutional Pancreatic Consortium led by Henry Ford that will drive research initiatives on data analytics, translational research, precision medicine, and clinical trials, as well as a director's fund to support the hiring of leading pancreatic cancer clinical and research leaders for the Center. Finally, it will also launch an endowed fund to establish an administrative director for the Henry Ford Pancreatic Cancer Center.

An estimated 53,670 people are diagnosed each year with pancreatic cancer, and with no effective screening tool available to diagnose pancreatic cancer early and the disease has an 5-year survival rate of only 8 percent.

The $20 million gift will add to the momentum started by another $20 million gift donated in 2016 to Henry Ford by Detroit businessman Mort Harris in honor of his late wife. That gift was to back the Brigitte Harris Cancer Pavilion in Detroit, slated to open in 2020. Harris' gift is the largest individual gift in Henry Ford's history and is part of a $40 million package to support the building project and its three specific areas of focus: precision medicine, brain cancer, and pancreatic cancer.

Twitter: @BethJSanborn
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