University of California San Francisco
Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center

Strength in numbers: UCSF is forging collaborative partnerships in new fights against cancer

By Ron Leuty | SF Business Times | March 1, 2018

Strength in numbers: UCSF is forging collaborative partnerships in new fights against cancer

Alan Ashworth, PhD, FRS, President of the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center, serves as inaugural chair of the UC Cancer Consortium.

Like millions of others, Alan Ashworth has been touched by cancer. What’s different from many is that he may be able to change its direction.

Ashworth, the president of UCSF’s Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center, saw his father die six months after a lung cancer diagnosis. Even as a molecular biologist and an expert in how certain genes are linked to cancer risk, there was little he could do.

So when Ashworth heard then-Vice President Joe Biden focus the federal Cancer Moonshot program on sharing data, cooperating and collaborating, he immediately saw a role in connecting cancer doctors and researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, with colleagues at the UC system’s four other cancer centers.

The UC Cancer Consortium is designed to collect “best practices” across the centers — UCSF, UCLA, San Diego, Irvine and Davis — build pan-California clinical trials, make sense of big data and extend its learning to the 84 percent of California cancer patients the centers don’t see.

There have been smaller collaborations between UC researchers and doctors — around prostate cancer or cardiothoracic surgery, for example — but nothing as grand and broadly ambitious as this initiative.

“This is not just a nice-to-do thing,” Ashworth said when the program officially kicked off in September. “It’s an absolute imperative action that we need to take in order to take advantage of the new advances in cancer and understanding cancer and do the best for our patients.”

Early on, the five-year initiative has revolved around figuring out what it can do in year one, such as sharing millions of clinical trial records warehoused for UC.

 

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