The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

December 2, 2012

Murtha efforts saluted: Cancer treatment center named for late congressman

Randy Griffith

— The late John Murtha is being honored for his work to improve health care opportunities for members of the armed services and their families.

On Monday, the multidisciplinary cancer treatment program centered in the new Walter Reed National Military Medical Center outside Washington will be dedicated as the John P. Murtha Cancer Center.

Murtha served as this region’s congressman from 1974 until his death in February 2010.

The center’s first director recognizes the significance of Murtha’s legacy.

“I had the privilege of knowing Mr. Murtha when he was working with the Defense Department to get some of these programs put in place,” Col. Craig Shriver said. “He saved many lives through the funding he provided.”

Shriver is familiar to many in this area as one of the driving forces behind Windber Research Institute and its partnership with Walter Reed through the Shriver-led Clinical Breast Care Project. Shriver has been interim director of the new Walter Reed cancer center throughout its development.

“It is a great honor for me,” Shriver said. “Throughout this process, we have had some of the most highly trained cancer experts in all areas working with us. It is my privilege to be in a leadership position to move the cancer center forward for the patients and the larger community.”

Although centered in the new Walter Reed’s Bethesda, Md., campus, the Murtha Cancer Center includes a wide network of treatment and research programs, Shriver said last week during a teleconference.

It is the designated Center of Excellence for cancer care by the Defense Department, offering a multidisciplinary approach to treatment by integrating services such as nutrition, psychosocial, genetic and social work, along with counseling and support groups.

Research laboratories included in the Murtha Cancer Center are located in northern Virginia, Maryland and at Windber Research Institute.

Windber has been given an expanded role operating the tissue banking program for all cancer research in the Walter Reed program. The tissue banking freezers at Windber were first set up to collect and store breast cancer specimens as part of the Clinical Breast Care Project.

More types of tissue have been added through the years.

Shriver will be at Windber Research Institute on Dec. 18 to mark the 15,000th tissue specimen added to the bank.

Windber’s reputation for quality work and thorough documentation got leadership’s attention. In an international study to map the complete gene sequence for breast cancers, Windber’s specimens provided about 25 percent of the specimens – with acceptance rates well above larger university research programs.

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