Cancer survivor helps design new oncology research center

VTCRI expects to open new facility in spring 2020

By Jessica Jewell - Weekend Anchor / Reporter

ROANOKE, Va. - As construction continues on Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute's new biomedical research expansion building, an architect with a unique perspective is leading the charge.

After returning from a family vacation in 2016, Daniel DiMarco was diagnosed with stage 3 Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

"I just was very blessed to have great family, my wife and son. And just coincidentally, the church over my shoulder is where I go and a great support of people there," DiMarco, the associate principal and healthcare studio manager for AECOM, said.

With that support, DiMarco was able to continue working despite six months of chemotherapy.

"It was just really coincidental that I was working on a project that had as its focus a cancer research facility, you know, so it was almost a joy to be working on a building that I knew would someday find cures," DiMarco said.

Michael Friedlander, executive director of the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute, worked closely with Daniel.

"We were worried about our partner who knew so much and had so much corporate memory of everything going on, how the project would go," Friedlander said.

He said comparative oncology research at the new facility will focus on animals, but the findings could also help humans.

"What an honor and a privilege for him to be contributing that way not only for his own health but for the health of people in the community and people who will come after him. That's the kind of person Daniel is," Friedlander said.

DiMarco is now 10 months cancer-free.

"It’s probably one of the greatest things you could ever hear, you know that you've beaten cancer," DiMarco said.

Now his next hurdle is finishing plans for the building to help animals and ultimately people be cancer-free too.

"It’d be great if we could find cures for cancer and other issues, and I think this building is, you know, a huge catalyst," DiMarco said.

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