Nicholas J. Petrelli, M.D., Bank of America endowed medical director of ChristianaCare’s Helen F. Graham Cancer Center & Research Institute, received the Tilton Award from the Medical Society of Delaware. The award is named for James Tilton, M.D., the first U.S. Army Surgeon General of the United States and the first president of the Medical Society of Delaware.

ChristianaCare’s Helen F. Graham Cancer Center & Research Institute

The award recognizes Dr. Petrelli’s efforts in the past 17 years to decrease Delaware’s cancer mortality rate and improve cancer care throughout the state.

“Since coming to ChristianaCare in 2003, your leadership has transformed cancer care in Delaware,” said Janice E. Nevin, M.D., MPH, ChristianaCare’s president and CEO, who spoke at the award dinner. “Since then, we have cared for approximately 2 million cancer patients, and the Graham Cancer Center is recognized as a national model for multidisciplinary cancer care, prevention and outreach, and a top enroller in the country in clinical trials. Today, we treat more than 70 percent of all cancer patients in Delaware, and we are making tremendous progress in reducing cancer mortality in our state, and in improving the lives of the people we serve, guided by our values, love and excellence.

“Thank you, Nick, for your untiring leadership and vision, for all you have done for ChristianaCare and—most importantly—for the people of Delaware,” she said.

Dr. Petrelli’s leadership and collaboration with partners across the state have helped Delaware to achieve reductions in the cancer mortality rate that are double the national average. The state is outpacing the nation in reducing deaths from breast cancer and colorectal cancer. Delaware also became the first state to eliminate the racial disparity in colorectal cancer incidence and mortality between African Americans and Caucasians.

Dr. Petrelli helped establish ChristianaCare’s Gene Editing Institute, an international leader in biomedical research in cancer and other inherited diseases and the only research institute of its kind based within a community cancer program. From left: Director Eric Kmiec, Ph.D., with researchers Brett Sansbury and Amanda Wagner.

Among Dr. Petrelli’s many accomplishments:

  • He led the development of 14 multidisciplinary disease site centers and selection as one of the original cancer centers to participate in the National Cancer Institute Community Cancer Centers Program.
  • Under his leadership, the Graham Cancer Center achieved one of the highest National Cancer Institute clinical trials participation rates in the country at 27% — well above the national rate of 4% to 5% percent.
  • He led development of the first statewide High-risk Family Cancer Registry, consisting of 9,250 individuals with more than 349,000 family members and seven full-time genetic counselors.
  • He established a research partnership with The Wistar Institute of Philadelphia, an international leader in biomedical research, to collaborate on translational cancer research with the aim of bringing the latest discoveries in cancer research to cancer patients in our community.
  • He established the Center for Translational Cancer Research at the Graham Cancer Center, where scientists and clinicians work together to find new cancer treatments.
  • He helped establish the Gene Editing Institute at ChristianaCare, an international leader in biomedical research in cancer and other inherited diseases and the only research institute of its kind based within a community cancer program.

“Nick Petrelli truly personifies everything this award is about,” said Medical Society of Delaware President Andrew W. Dahlke, M.D. “Delaware would not be where it is today with regard to cancer mortality rates if it weren’t for his steadfast goals and in-the-trenches work. Delaware is extremely fortunate to have him fighting the good fight.”

Dr. Petrelli has received numerous awards and has authored hundreds of peer-reviewed manuscripts. He has served on several advisory panels of the National Cancer Institute, the American Society of Clinical Oncology and the Society of Surgical Oncology. In 2013 he received the Order of the First State Award by Gov. Jack Markell for his dedication to excellence in serving the community and the state of Delaware.