Cleveland, OH,
12:24 PM

MetroHealth Forms Its Center for Cancer Research, Dedicated to Delivering Cutting-Edge Care to Everyone

Bingcheng Wang, PhD, Director of the Division of Cancer Biology in the Department of Medicine and Director of Basic Sciences in the MetroHealth Research Institute, has assembled an impressive team of cancer researchers who are bringing cutting-edge care to The MetroHealth System and its hundreds of thousands of patients.

William Tse, MD, is training blood cells to become cancer-killing CAR T cells so patients can beat cancer without the toxic side effects of chemotherapy and radiation.

Khalid Sossey-Alaoui, PhD, is working to understand why triple-negative breast cancer occurs much more often in African-American women so he can help end the dreaded disease.

Zhisan Wang, MD, PhD, is searching for the biological signal in patients’ bodies that tell doctors lung cancer is there – long before it becomes deadly.

They are four of eight nationally and internationally recognized researchers forming a new cancer research team in Cleveland focused on more than curing one of the most feared diseases. The team, which is backed by millions of dollars in support and grants and dozens of research assistants, will also focus on ending the racial, ethnic, social and economic inequities that impact cancer diagnosis and treatment.

“We’re doing this for the patients we serve, to ensure that they have the latest advances in cancer care and that they are able to participate in cutting-edge clinical trials in cancer care," says Bernard Boulanger, MD, MetroHealth Executive Vice President and Chief Clinical Officer. Clinical trials give patients access to newly discovered medical testing and treatments before they’re available to the public.

More patient diversity – to improve outcomes for all patients – has been a goal in cancer research for years.

“A lot of people can’t get to the most advanced cancer care because they don’t have the assets to do that,” says Dr. Tse, Chief of Hematology and Oncology at MetroHealth.

MetroHealth’s location would make that care available to a large, diverse population and, in many cases, to patients who haven’t had access in the past, he says.

“MetroHealth plays a big role in caring for the underserved throughout the Cleveland area,” says Dr. Bingcheng Wang. “And they are impacted differently by cancer including having a higher chance of being diagnosed with aggressive forms of breast and prostate cancer. Because of that, MetroHealth is uniquely positioned to contribute to the understanding of racial disparities in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer.”

“Fundamental to caring for our cancer patients is the continuous striving for better outcomes for all of them,” says Benjamin Li, MD, Director of MetroHealth’s Cancer Center. “Investment by MetroHealth in discovering new knowledge and better treatments for our cancer patients is our commitment to improving cancer outcomes for our community.”

Other researchers on the MetroHealth team are:

  • Donald D. Anthony, MD, PhD, who’s working with University Hospitals researcher David Wald, MD, PhD, to turn NK cells – a form of white blood cells that fight invaders like infection or cancer – into an off-the-shelf treatment for cancer, especially those types that are difficult to treat.
  • Xiaonan Han, PhD, whose team is delving into what goes wrong in gut stem cells of children who develop Crohn’s and other chronic gastrointestinal inflammation that can lead to colon cancers as the children grow to adulthood. Their goal is to find a way to prevent those inflammation-induced cancer cells from traveling to other organs.
  • Ashwini Sehgal, MD, working with MetroHealth Physiatrist Richard Wilson, MD, is studying whether a special type of deep-tissue massage can help women recovering from breast cancer surgery avoid severe and persistent pain and limited use of their shoulders.
  • Chengfeng Yang, PhD, and his team are researching heavy metals, a common group of pollutants in the environment, and how they affect lung cancer, in the hopes of finding new ways to treat it. He’s also studying what causes triple-negative breast cancer to spread to other parts of the body and developing therapies to slow that process.

All of these MetroHealth-based investigators in cancer research are – or are becoming – full members of the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center and add significant value to the research programs of the center.

Case Comprehensive Cancer Center is one of only 51 Comprehensive Cancer Centers in the United States designated by the National Cancer Institute.

About The MetroHealth System

The MetroHealth System is redefining health care by going beyond medical treatment to improve the foundations of community health and well-being: affordable housing, a cleaner environment, economic opportunity and access to fresh food, convenient transportation, legal help and other services. The system strives to become as good at preventing disease as it is at treating it.

The system’s more than 600 doctors, 1,700 nurses and 7,800 employees go to work each day with a mission of service, to their patients and to the community. As Cuyahoga County’s safety-net health system, MetroHealth plays an essential role in the region, caring for anyone and everyone, regardless of an ability to pay.

Founded in 1837, MetroHealth operates four hospitals, four emergency departments and more than 20 health centers and 40 additional sites throughout Cuyahoga County. The system serves more than 300,000 patients, two-thirds of whom are uninsured or covered by Medicare or Medicaid.

MetroHealth is home to Cuyahoga County’s most experienced Level I Adult Trauma Center, verified since 1992, and Ohio’s only adult and pediatric trauma and burn center.

As an academic medical center, MetroHealth is committed to research and to teaching and training tomorrow’s caregivers. Each active staff physician holds a faculty appointment at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. Its main campus hospital houses the Cleveland Metropolitan School District’s Lincoln-West School of Science & Health, the only high school in America located inside a hospital.

Knowing that good health is about much more than good medical care, MetroHealth has launched the Institute for H.O.P.E.™ (Health, Opportunity, Partnership, Empowerment), which uses a coordinated, collaborative and strategic approach to help patients with non-medical needs such as healthy food, stable housing and job training.

The MetroHealth Glick Center, a new 11-floor hospital, is under construction on the system’s main campus in Cleveland and is scheduled to welcome its first patients in October 2022. The billion-dollar project is the cornerstone of a wider neighborhood revitalization effort led by the system and its partners in the community.

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