October 10, 2019
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Society honors Helen F. Graham Cancer Center medical director

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Nicholas J. Petrelli, MD, FACS
Nicholas J. Petrelli

Medical Society of Delaware presented the Tilton Award to Nicholas J. Petrelli, MD, FACS.

The award — named after James Tilton, MD, the first surgeon general of the U.S. Army — honors Petrelli’s efforts to improve cancer care and reduce the cancer mortality rate in the state over the past 17 years.

Petrelli is Bank of America endowed medical director at ChristianaCare’s Helen F. Graham Cancer Center & Research Institute, which treats more than 70% of individuals with cancer in Delaware. He also is HemOnc Today’s Associate Editor for Surgical Oncology.

“Since coming to ChristianaCare in 2003, your leadership has transformed cancer care in Delaware,” Janice E. Nevin, MD, MPH, ChristianaCare’s president and CEO, said during an Oct. 4 awards dinner. “Since then, we have cared for approximately 2 million [patients with cancer], 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. ... Thank you, Nick, for your untiring leadership and vision, for all you have done for Christiana Care and — most importantly — for the people of Delaware.”

Under Petrelli’s leadership, Graham Cancer Center’s clinical trial participation rate reached 27%, more than five times the national average of 4% to 5%.

Petrelli oversaw development of the first statewide high-risk family cancer registry, established a research partnership with The Wistar Institute in Philadelphia, established the Center for Translational Cancer Research at Graham Cancer Center, and also helped establish the Gene Editing Institute at ChristianaCare.

These efforts have helped Delaware outpace the nation in reducing deaths from colorectal cancer and breast cancer, and the state’s reductions in cancer mortality rate are double the national average.

“Nick Petrelli truly personifies everything this award is about,” Andrew W. Dahlke, MD, president of Medical Society of Delaware, said in a press release. “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.”