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Northwestern Medicine Launches the Canning Thoracic Institute to Meet the Growing Patient Demand for Lung Care

The Northwestern Medicine Canning Thoracic Institute will create a patient-centered destination for treatment of the simple to most complex respiratory illnesses and lung cancer

After successfully performing the first COVID-19 lung transplant in the United States and offering guidance to transplant centers around the world, Northwestern Medicine has launched the Canning Thoracic Institute (CTI), investing in the fields of thoracic surgery and respiratory medicine to meet the growing patient demand for lung care. Supported by a generous gift from John and Rita Canning, the CTI is committed to providing groundbreaking research, clinical breakthroughs, and high-quality care for patients with diseases of the lung and chest across the 11-hospital Northwestern Medicine health system.

“The Canning Thoracic Institute will capitalize on Northwestern Medicine’s breakthroughs in medicine with a regional, national and global impact,” says John and Rita Canning, whose $20 million gift launched the CTI. “Our philanthropic contribution will help recruit and educate the top physicians in the nation, pioneer new procedures and clinical trials, incorporate artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) tools, and make the patient experience exceptional. We want the CTI to be known as the leading program for thoracic care, creating a platform that allows patients from all over the country and world to access leading-edge treatment.”

“We want to create solutions for seemingly impossible problems and be the destination center for diseases of the lung and chest,” says Ankit Bharat, MD, chief of thoracic surgery at Northwestern Medicine and executive director of the Canning Thoracic Institute. “Our team leads the nation in finding new ways to fight deadly respiratory conditions such as COVID-19, which is demonstrated through the historical milestone of pioneering the first COVID-19 double-lung transplant in the nation with the best clinical outcomes worldwide.”

Leveraging world-renowned clinical experts in the fields of pulmonology and thoracic surgery, the CTI will meet the growing need for lung care in these main areas:

- Expand and optimize clinical trials to advance new clinical breakthroughs
- Curate and incubate breakthrough ideas, treatments, care pathways and technology to transform patient care (ex: lung bio-engineering and surgical innovation to enhance patient recovery and oncological outcomes)
- Recruit and educate talented physicians and scientists
- Create a platform that allows patients from all over the country and internationally to access Northwestern Medicine’s leading-edge care

“The CTI offers Northwestern Medicine patients access to leading edge technologies and procedures, integrates research with clinical practice to improve patient outcomes, and educates the next generation of physicians in pulmonology, critical care and thoracic surgery,” says Scott Budinger, MD, chief of pulmonary and critical care medicine at Northwestern Medicine and medical director of the Canning Thoracic Institute. “We’re well positioned to accelerate our impact, innovation and outcomes to meet the growing patient demand for lung care.”

Since June 2020, Northwestern Medicine surgeons have completed more than 30 double-lung transplants on COVID-19 patients, which is the highest number performed at any health system in the world. To date, with more than 46 million Americans contracting COVID-19, demand for outpatient pulmonary care and lung transplantation is expected to grow. Additionally, lung cancer represents the most common type of cancer nationwide, and almost one million people in the Chicagoland region suffer from a chronic lung disease, representing 10 percent of the overall population.

“Our response to the pandemic demonstrated our strength as an international leader for innovation and breakthrough treatments,” says Dean M. Harrison, President and Chief Executive Officer of Northwestern Memorial HealthCare. “Thanks to this generous gift from John and Rita Canning, we’ll create a center of excellence for the treatment of the simple to the most complex respiratory illnesses and lung disease.”

To date, the team of more than 70 specialized pulmonologists, thoracic surgeons and critical care providers have accomplished milestones such as:

- First in the nation double-lung transplant on a COVID-19 patient
- First in the nation “COVID to COVID” double-lung transplant
- Internationally recognized research on the mechanisms of lung damage
- First in the nation minimally invasive, outpatient lung cancer surgery to simultaneously diagnose and treat early-stage lung cancer
- First in the nation robotic emphysema surgery
- One of only two programs in the U.S. and the only in Illinois for robotic airway surgery
- Only program in Illinois for robotic surgery for life-threatening ventricular arrhythmias and minimally invasive robotic esophageal surgery
- Referral program in the U.S. for endoscopic treatment for fistulas of airways and esophagus
- Nationally recognized subspecialty pulmonology programs for asthma and COPD, noninvasive ventilation for chronic lung disease, interstitial lung disease, occupational lung disease and interventional pulmonary medicine
- World-class partnerships that include a combined adult and pediatric cystic fibrosis program with Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago; medical and surgical care for patients with pulmonary hypertension in partnership with the Northwestern Medicine Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute; and specialized care for patients with spinal cord injuries at the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab

To learn more about Northwestern Medicine, visit NM.org.