In 1939 Julie Penrose initiated plans to bring to reality the long cherished dream of her philanthropist husband, Spencer Penrose, to establish an institution for the care of cancer patients. Spencer Penrose’s personal experience with cancer led him to plan the Penrose Tumor Institute until his death. He arranged to provide for it after his death by the establishment of a special fund: the El Pomar Foundation.
At the time of the opening of the Penrose Tumor Institute in 1941, the world renowned Dr. Henri Coutard took charge of radium therapy as well as the research and treatment of cancer. Dr. Coutard was the inventor of the “Coutard Method” used worldwide for the treatment of cancer. Prior to coming to Colorado Springs, Dr. Coutard was in charge of the Roentgentherapy department at the Institute of Radium and at the Curie Institute at the University of Paris. Dr. Coutard became Spencer Penrose’s physician in France while he was being treated for cancer.
The earliest directors of the Penrose programs were Dr. Charles T. Ryder in histobiology, Dr. James W. McMullen in radiology, and Dr. Henri Coutard in radiophysiology.
In 1949 Dr. Coutard returned to Paris and Dr. Juan del Regato was appointed Medical Director of the Penrose Cancer Hospital. Dr. del Regato studied under Dr. Coutard at the University of Paris. In fact, he assisted Dr. Coutard in the treatment of Spencer Penrose. In 1943, while practicing at the Ellis Fischel Cancer Hospital in Columbia, Missouri, Dr. del Regato teamed up with Lauren Ackerman in the authoring of Cancer, the first textbook on the diagnosis and treatment of cancer.
Professionally, Dr. del Regato was respected for his many medical and scientific writings and for the radiation physicians he trained. These physicians are now among the outstanding radiation oncologists in this country; many serving as directors of some of the leading universities and cancer centers. At one time it was estimated that Penrose Cancer Hospital had trained one third of the radiation oncologists that were practicing in the United States. The National Cancer Institute accredited the first radiation therapy residency at Penrose Cancer Hospital in 1953.
Dr. del Regato was also the founder of the Penrose Cancer Seminars—a unique educational conference held at the Broadmoor Hotel and attended annually by top physicians throughout the world.
In October 1952, the Penrose Cancer Hospital won official recognition by the American College of Surgeons as one of three approved cancer hospitals west of the Mississippi. At that time, only ten other such institutions in the entire United States had won that recognition.
A key physician who worked closely with Dr. del Regato through the years training physicians, researching and diagnosing cancer was pathologist, Dr. Morgan Berthrong.
During Dr. del Regato’s career he received numerous honors and appointments including being named a member of the National Advisory Cancer Council in 1967 and serving in various capacities at the National Institutes of Health. He also was responsible for obtaining numerous research grants for Penrose Cancer Hospital during his tenure. In 1968 he was awarded the Gold Medal of the American College of Radiology—the highest honor that can be awarded and going only to those who have attained the maximum professional achievement.
In 1973, after 25 years of devoted service to the Penrose Cancer Hospital, Dr. del Regato resigned. Dr. Chahin M. Chahbazian became the new Medical Director of the Cancer Hospital for one year before leaving to continue his work in California.
Dr. John Schiller was appointed Medical Director of Radiation Therapy in 1975 and retired in 2006. His long time partner, Dr. Dudley Kersey, retired in 1999. Today, Dr. Anuj Peddada practices with Dr. Alan Monroe who joined the staff in 2005 and Dr. Tanner who joined in 2011.
In 1982, Penrose became the only community hospital in the nation to be designated as a Cancer Information Service (1-800-4CANCER) by the National Cancer Institute. That service continues today. In 1999, Penrose was awarded an additional 5-year contract and serves callers in the six-state region of Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico, Utah, Montana and Arizona.
Expansion, research and new equipment continued over the years. In 1992, the grand tradition of the Penrose Cancer Center continued with the opening of a new building dedicated to outpatient cancer treatment. This building was named the Orin W. and Miriam B. Loo Pavilion in honor of the support from the Loo Family. Community support for the Cancer Center continues today through the El Pomar Foundation, Penrose-St. Francis Foundation, and individual donors.
Today, Penrose Cancer Center continues the legacy of its past by introducing new technologies, providing extensive support services and offering patients the chance to participate in clinical trials that provide the latest treatment opportunities and cancer prevention. Through its affiliation with Catholic Health Initiatives, Penrose Cancer Center received funding from the National Cancer Center as a NCI Community Cancer Center Program (NCCCP).