Dana-Farber Cancer Institute Starts Work on Advanced Research Imaging Facility

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BOSTON – Oct. 23, 2013—Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center (MLSC) today celebrated the start of construction on a laboratory for making chemical tracers that “light up” cancer cells and molecular pathways, a technology for research on improving cancer diagnosis and developing precision drugs matched to individual patients.

The Molecular Cancer Imaging Facility (MCIF) will house a cyclotron for making short-lived molecular imaging probes that are tracked by PET scanners. The process is key to evaluating experimental drugs and showing whether they hit vulnerable targets within cancer cells.

Construction of the facility at Dana-Farber’s Harbor Campus in South Boston’s Innovation District is supported in part by a $10 million grant from the MLSC, a state-funded investment agency that supports life sciences innovation, research, development and commercialization. The MLSC is charged with implementing the state’s 10-year, $1 billion Life Sciences Initiative, proposed by Governor Deval Patrick in 2007 and approved by the Legislature and signed into law in 2008.

Today’s construction commencement ceremony marked the start of renovations to 50,000 square feet of space. The new facility will be adjacent to the Lurie Family Imaging Center (LFIC). The expansion is projected to create more than 100 construction jobs, and 15 jobs to operate the facility.

“With the generous support of the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, Dana-Farber can now realize more of its vision of using advanced imaging technology in cancer research,” said Barrett Rollins, MD, PhD, Dana-Farber’s chief scientific officer. “The cyclotron will allow our scientists to create the tools needed to identify the precise molecular and genetic abnormalities that drive cancer.

“That gets us closer than ever to our ultimate goal of providing precision customized care to all of our patients with cancer,” Rollins said. “Molecular imaging will play a key role in the delivery of personalized medicine, by allowing clinicians to determine whether specific drugs are effective in days instead of months.”

“In Massachusetts we invest in the life sciences because we are choosing to shape our own future,” said Governor Deval Patrick. “We congratulate the Dana-Farber Institute on their new facility and look forward to the groundbreaking science that will take place within its walls.”

Project leaders have selected a GE cyclotron that will be installed on the first floor. A cyclotron whirls beams of charged particles at extremely high speeds in a spiral-shaped machine the size of a small car. The particle beams can be used to bombard atoms of different types to produce radioisotopes that are detected by PET scanners.

The new cyclotron will produce isotopes including oxygen-15, carbon-11, nitrogen-13 and fluorine-18. Locating the cyclotron adjacent to the Lurie Family Imaging Center is essential because the probes become unusable in a matter of minutes.

“I am excited to see construction commence for Dana-Farber’s newest facility,” said Susan Windham-Bannister, PhD, President & CEO of the MLSC. “A key strategy of the Life Sciences Center is to use our capital dollars to enable the creation of unique resources that are available to the Massachusetts life sciences community. This imaging facility will serve clinicians and companies across the state by allowing them access to some of the most revolutionary equipment in our industry to further the delivery of personalized medicine to cancer patients.”

In addition to the space being renovated at the Harbor Campus, the MCIF will be complemented by 6,000 square feet of cold chemistry and support space in the Longwood Center, which is currently being developed adjacent to Dana-Farber’s Longwood campus.

“Today's event marks another example of how when the public and private sectors work together, they can do great things,” said Massachusetts State Representative Nick Collins, who also attended today’s construction commencement ceremony. “The Massachusetts Life Sciences Center (MLSC)’s investments don't just create jobs and opportunity. By partnering with institutions like Dana-Farber in the development of its new Molecular Cancer Imaging Facility, they will help save lives.”

About Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (www.dana-farber.org) is a principal teaching affiliate of the Harvard Medical School and is among the leading cancer research and care centers in the United States. It is a founding member of the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center, designated a comprehensive cancer center by the National Cancer Institute. It provides adult cancer care with Brigham and Women’s Hospital as Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center and it provides pediatric care with Boston Children’s Hospital as Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center. Dana-Farber is the top ranked cancer center in New England, according to U.S. News & World Report, and one of the largest recipients among independent hospitals of National Cancer Institute and National Institutes of Health grant funding. Follow Dana-Farber on Facebook and on Twitter.

About the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center

The Massachusetts Life Sciences Center (MLSC) is an investment agency that supports life sciences innovation, research, development and commercialization. The MLSC is charged with implementing a 10-year, $1-billion, state-funded investment initiative. These investments create jobs and support advances that improve health and well-being. The MLSC offers the nation’s most comprehensive set of incentives and collaborative programs targeted to the life sciences ecosystem. These programs propel the growth that has made Massachusetts the global leader in life sciences. The MLSC creates new models for collaboration and partners with organizations, both public and private, around the world to promote innovation in the life sciences. For more information, visit www.masslifesciences.com.

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