Newswise — MAYWOOD, IL –  Loyola Medicine's Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center and Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine are expanding their renowned cancer program to advance the pursuit of National Cancer Institute designation as a Comprehensive Cancer Center.

As a major part of this initiative, Stritch is launching a new Department of Cancer Biology to study cancer at the molecular level.

"This new department will work collaboratively with researchers and clinicians at the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center," said Steve A.N. Goldstein, MD, PhD, dean and chief diversity officer of Stritch. "We will be growing the program by recruiting some of the nation's leading researchers in cancer biology."

David Hecht, MD, MS, MBA, Loyola Medicine's executive vice president of clinical affairs, said, "Dean Goldstein and I are very excited about this plan, which will raise the stature of our nationally known cancer program."

National Cancer Institute Cancer Centers are recognized for their scientific leadership, resources and depth and breadth of research. An elite subgroup of Comprehensive Cancer Centers, these institutions demonstrate their substantial transdisciplinary research that bridges scientific areas.

To achieve this goal, cancer program leaders will transition to new roles. William Small, Jr., MD, FACRO, FACR, FASTRO, chair of the department of radiation oncology, will become director of the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center and lead the effort to achieve Comprehensive Cancer Center designation.

"Dr. Small will build upon the many years of work and leadership of Dr. Patrick Stiff," Dr. Hecht said.

Dr. Stiff, the Coleman Professor of Oncology, is transitioning from director of the cancer center in order to focus more intently on clinical care and research. Dr. Stiff remains director of the division of hematology/oncology, leader of Loyola's bone marrow transplant program and chair of the SWOG Blood and Marrow Transplant Committee. Dr. Stiff also will continue as co-leader of the oncology service line for the medical center.

Dr. Stiff is co-investigator of two recent National Institutes of Health grants. The first, from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, establishes Loyola as the only center in Illinois to be named a Blood and Marrow Clinical Trials Network clinical core center. The second grant, from the National Cancer Institute, will help establish survivorship programs for bone marrow transplant patients. Dr. Stiff is a current recipient of a Perritt Foundation grant for research on dendritic cell cancer vaccines. Dr. Stiff also will continue researching ways to expand the number of stem cells and immune cells that can be derived from donated umbilical cord blood.

In 2017, Dr. Stiff was awarded the Stritch medal, the Stritch School of Medicine's highest honor. The Stritch Medal recognizes outstanding accomplishments of a Loyola graduate or faculty member who exhibits dedication to research, education and patient care.

Dr. Small has earned an international reputation for research and treatment of gynecological malignancies and gastrointestinal and breast cancers. The leader of numerous national and international clinical trials, Dr. Small is co-chair of the NRG Oncology Gynecologic Committee, former chair of the NCI-funded Radiation Therapy Oncology Group Gynecologic Working Group and past chair of the Gynecologic Cancer InterGroup. He is a fellow of the American College of Radiation Oncology, American College of Radiology and American Society for Radiation Oncology. Dr. Small is an author on more than 230 peer-reviewed publications, 30 invited book chapters and six books, including the recently published "Clinical Radiation Oncology: Indications, Techniques and Results," a leading textbook in the field of radiation oncology.

He is past president of the Council of Affiliated Regional Radiation Oncology Societies and the Chicago Radiological Society and has served as chair of the Gynecologic Cancer InterGroup Cervix Cancer Committee. Before joining Loyola, Dr. Small was vice chair of radiation oncology at Northwestern University. He completed medical school and residency training at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

The Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, located on Loyola Medicine's main campus in Maywood, is named after the late archbishop of Chicago, Joseph Cardinal Bernardin. It is among the first centers to bring together in one building researchers and clinicians from all cancer service lines. The center includes clinic areas, chemotherapy services, research laboratories and the spa-like Coleman Foundation Image Renewal Center, which provides services such as hair care, breast prosthesis fittings and massage therapy.

"Under Dr. Stiff's leadership, the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center has become one of the leading cancer treatment and research centers in the Midwest," Dr. Small said. "I am humbled to be given this opportunity to continue Dr. Stiff's legacy."

Nancy Zeleznik-Le, PhD, former interim director of the Oncology Research Institute, will serve as interim chair of this new department of cancer biology. The department will work collaboratively with researchers and clinicians at the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center. As interim chair, she will also serve as the deputy director and associate director for basic research of the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center.