Cancer is pervasive in our society and has a severe impact on families and communities across the globe. Expanding cancer-related education and outreach to the D.C. community is just one of the goals of the GW Cancer Center.
“Four years ago, I became aware of GW’s mission to be a new, innovative cancer center here in the District of Columbia,” says Dr. Eduardo Sotomayor, inaugural director of the GW Cancer Center and professor of medicine at The George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences. “The opportunity I received from the senior leaders of the university was to bring under one umbrella all cancer-related activities—not only in terms of cancer care and cancer research, but also in terms of cancer prevention and cancer control. And, more importantly, how to expand our education activities to our community.”
Per Dr. Sotomayor, the overall goal is to obtain National Cancer Institute (NCI) designation within the next five years. “Just two weeks ago we had a visit by the external advisory board of the cancer center, and they have seen our progress. They are seeing the impact we are having in our community, and they are pleased enough for us to start writing the first draft of the application for NCI designation.”
The first step in building the center was to identify varying demographic populations in the D.C. area and their unique risks related to cancer. Specifically, the African American and LGBTQ populations stood out. African Americans experience a high rate of aggressive prostate cancer, as well as multiple myeloma (a blood disorder). In regards the LGBTQ community, Dr. Sotomayor reveals little was known about the impact of a cancer diagnosis among these individuals.
“These are our in-need populations. We are building programs based on the needs of our community—not just in these particular populations, but in the community as a whole,” had adds.
One of the characteristics that makes the GW Cancer Center special—and a candidate for NCI designation—is its multidisciplinary approach, but specifically from a “patient-centric” strategy. There is one floor of the center dedicated to cancer patients, so instead of patients having to travel from office to office, all of the cancer specialists come to them.
Another unique aspect is the center’s work with engineers to identify new therapies, including activating a patient’s own immune system to defeat cancer cells. “We are looking at what we can do differently—not only to advance the field as a whole, but more importantly to provide better comprehensive multidisciplinary care to our cancer patients here in the district,” states Dr. Sotomayor.
To learn more about the GW Cancer Center, visit www.cancercenter.gwu.edu.
**To listen to an interview with Dr. Eduardo Sotomayor, inaugural director of the GW Cancer Center and professor of medicine at The George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, click here.