Smilow boosts research, care

University President Richard Levin, Joel Smilow ’54 and others cut the ribbon at the official opening of the Smilow Cancer Hospital Wednesday.
University President Richard Levin, Joel Smilow ’54 and others cut the ribbon at the official opening of the Smilow Cancer Hospital Wednesday. Photo by Lindsay Gellman.

With the opening of the Smilow Cancer Hospital, director Thomas Lynch ’82 MED ’86 said he hopes Yale-New Haven Hospital will become the Yale Law School of cancer research.

Coordination between the Smilow Cancer Hospital, which opened Wednesday, and West Campus — the 1.6 million square-foot former Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceutical complex acquired by the University in 2007 — will be critical to the Smilow Hospital’s success as a cancer research and care facility, administrators said. They said they expect collaboration between the hospital and West Campus to make Yale-New Haven Hospital one of the top cancer facilities in the country.

President Levin speaks at the opening of the Smilow Cancer Hospital on Wednesday.
President Levin speaks at the opening of the Smilow Cancer Hospital on Wednesday.
A ribbon stretches across the building before being cut in celebration of the Smilow Cancer Hospital opening.
A ribbon stretches across the building before being cut in celebration of the Smilow Cancer Hospital opening.

“West Campus without Smilow would be just lab space, and Smilow without West Campus would be just a beautiful hospital building,” Lynch said. “You need both of them together.”

The lower floors of the 497,000-square-foot, 14-floor Smilow Hospital will welcome outpatients on Monday, but the upper floors will not be fully operational until April 2010. When construction is complete, the Smilow Hospital will combine Yale’s inpatient and outpatient cancer treatment facilities into one location. Previously, the Yale Cancer Center — which encompassed clinical practices and research laboratories spread across the Yale School of Medicine campus — performed clinical trials and research, but inpatients stayed at Yale-New Haven Hospital.

The Smilow Hospital will have 12 operating rooms and infusion suites where outpatients will receive chemotherapy treatment. One operating room — one of the first of its kind in the world — will allow doctors to perform magnetic resonance imaging on patients during surgery, said Peter Marks, the chief clinical officer at the Smilow Hospital.

The hospital will also house 12 specific cancer research programs, including ones for brain, breast and pediatric cancers, that will conduct on-site clinical trials. Researchers will analyze the genetics underlying cancer at a molecular profiling facility located behind the hospital.

The data collected by the Smilow Hospital’s cancer research programs will be analyzed by researchers at a cancer biology institute on West Campus, Michael Donoghue, the University’s vice president for West Campus planning and program development, said in an e-mail Wednesday. Scientists at the institute will research how environmental factors can lead to cancer.

A search committee has met with initial candidates for director of the West Campus cancer biology institute, Lynch said. Since he arrived at Yale from Harvard Medical School in February, Lynch said, he has used the developments at West Campus and the Smilow Hospital, which is part of Yale-New Haven Hospital, as a selling point to lure researchers to Yale.

Lynch said he hopes to recruit a team of 12 or 13 scientists who will focus on cancer biology research and treatment at the Smilow Hospital. In addition, he added, nearly 100 newly hired investigators will soon begin research in the life sciences on West Campus. While construction on West Campus has been delayed because of the recession, Lynch said cancer research and treatment will not be affected since the upper floors of Smilow, where cancer patients will stay, are still being finished.

“From a cancer standpoint, I have not been slowed one iota,” Lynch said. “I’ve been given the green light on every [project].”

Donoghue said he was “excited” by the prospect of connecting clinical research at West Campus with patient care at the Smilow Hospital, which is only one of 40 hospitals in the country designated as a “comprehensive cancer center” by the National Cancer Institute.

The collaboration between the Smilow Cancer Hospital and the biomedical laboratories on West Campus, Lynch said, will lift Yale-New Haven — which is currently ranked 21st in the country for cancer research and care by the 2009 U.S. News & World Report — into the top tier of cancer research and care facilities.

“[Yale New-Haven Hospital is] very good in cancer and highly regarded, but I don’t think we are at the very top,” said Yale School of Medicine Dean Robert Alpern. “We want to get up there with the specialty hospitals, such as M.D. Anderson [in Houston, Texas] and [Memorial] Sloan-Kettering [in New York City],” Alpern said.

Yale-New Haven Hospital treats more cancer patients than any other hospital in Connecticut.

Comments