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Virginia Piper Cancer Institute®

Patients and their families are the heart and soul of the Virginia Piper Cancer Institute®. We believe that every patient deserves the best technology, from a compassionate staff, in an environment that is focused on their needs.

Our team of expert health care professionals combines current technology and treatment methods with clinical research, genetic counseling and alternative therapies. Offering patients choices in their cancer care that fit their lives is the most important service we can provide. 


  • We are an Academic Comprehensive Cancer Program as accredited by Commission on Cancer of the American College of Surgeons.
  • We are one of a select group of 22 U.S.-accredited cancer programs, and the only in the Twin Cities, to receive the 2016 Outstanding Achievement Award by the Commission on Cancer of the American College of Surgeons. The award recognizes cancer programs that achieve excellence in compliance to the Commission on Cancer standards and provide the highest quality care to cancer patients.
Commission on Cancer award logo

Abbott Northwestern Hospital Foundation Medicine Ball video

[MUSIC PLAYING] I am always amazed at what motivates a donor to make a gift. Sometimes it is personal experience. They have lived with cancer, and there is the need to give back for the help that they have received from the Virginia Piper Cancer Institute. 

Many times, it is because of friends and family. They are overwhelmed that their loved one has gotten such a wonderful support system from Virginia Piper. 

It should not be surprising because it is continuous, but I am always surprised by the great generosity of people that we never knew. 

Who was Virginia Piper? She was a gentle person, yet strong and powerful. A gifted community leader and an intensely devoted wife to Bobby, and mother to Harry, David, and Ted. She was a peacemaker, yet unafraid to make waves. 

In 1961, Virginia joined the Board of Northwestern Hospital, and in 1964, became chair of the board. Eventually, she became chair of the Abbott Northwestern Hospital board after the two hospitals merged. Virginia was the ideal leader for this transitional time, building consensus and inspiring others with her vision. Her goal was quite simply the best possible care for patients and their families. 

After Ginny's death from cancer in 1988, contributions to the hospital poured in. Her husband Bobby and key leaders of the hospital knew that there was an urgent need for a first-rate cancer center at Abbott Northwestern, and they began planning for a fitting tribute to Virginia. 

In 1993, five years after Ginny's death, the Virginia Piper Cancer Institute opened. Today, 25 years later, VPCI is all Bobby hoped it would be and more, serving tens of thousands of people each year, improving and saving lives. 

It all began when I was on a business trip and I found the tumor myself. I had had a mammogram three months before. So I would just tell anybody that the self-check is something that I cannot stress enough. 

Dr. Bretzke is the first doctor that I saw. They ended up taking a biopsy, and you wait for those two treacherous days. I got the phone call when I was in my office. Dr. Bretzke called and she said, are you somewhere where you can talk? And I thought, oh, boy. This might not be such a good thing. 

So Dr. Bretzke said, Trish, we did find breast cancer. 


There were days where you just got to put one foot in front of the other. I had one moment very early on when I was in my daughter's bedroom and I was making her bed, and I heard my husband and my two kids in the kitchen, and I remember thinking to myself that this can't be my time. This cannot be my time because I can't leave my family. 

And so that was my one moment. That was my one weak moment. And after that, I said, I'm going to own this. I'm not going to let it own me, and that's what I did. 


I know that celebrating the champion within is the theme of the Medicine Ball, and whether it's the patient, whether it's the physicians, the surgeons, the oncologists, the radiologists, and your friends and your family-- everyone is a champion, I should say. Whether they're there on your team or whether it'd you, yourself. We all have to champion a cause, whatever part we play. 

And so that's really-- that's my story. I'm sticking to it. 

Virginia Piper was, in my experience, mostly a very good friend. She welcomed me to my husband's family. She is his aunt. And made it a lot of fun for me to be part of a broad gang. There were five sisters. And let me tell you, they kept things lively at all times. They're fun. They're all fun. 

The five sisters gathered for their parents 50th wedding anniversary one summer, and it took exactly a day and a half before their father ordered them all to go home. They were fighting nonstop with each other. They were just a crew that can hardly be all beautiful like Ginny. She was a very beautiful woman. A very warm and engaging person. She made everybody feel comfortable. 

We owe a debt of gratitude to the Piper family for their inspiration in starting the Virginia Piper Cancer Institute. Prior to its existence, really, most people would go elsewhere for cancer care. And now we all know that right here in our community is a place where our friends and families can be treated for this horrible disease. And their families can be with them and yet be able to go home and sleep in their own beds at night. It's a huge comfort. 

Not many families can say that for 57 years, they have been devoted to the cause of improved health care in our community. But that is the story of the Piper family. 

Who was Virginia Piper? She was a champion. A champion for us all. Who are the Pipers? They are champions. Champions for us all. 

And to each of you, I say thank you. We are celebrating you, our champions, of love, hope, and compassion. 


Virginia Piper Cancer Institute – Abbott Northwestern Hospital video

[MUSIC PLAYING] The people of Abbott Northwestern are at the heart of what makes us special. When patients choose VPCI for their care, they're enlisting the support of an entire multidisciplinary team with a unified goal of providing exceptional care through their journey. Our Outstanding Achievement Award from the Commission on Cancer, year after year, demonstrates the commitment of our team to excellence. 

The best cancer care needs a multidisciplinary approach with specialists working together to provide whole person care. The team at VPCI is comprehensive, integrated, and what differentiates us from all other cancer hospitals in Minnesota. Our teams meet on a regular basis to develop customized plans for each of our patients. 

We have 10 separate groups with close to 6,000 participants each year spanning all specialties. Care Navigators are the glue aligning the pieces of high quality integrated cancer care. They're our continuous point of contact for our patients. And they provide guidance and support through an overwhelming life-changing event. 

Radiology is one of many components needed in cancer care. Our expertise ranges from dedicated breast radiologists reading mammograms and MRIs to advanced interventional techniques to make diagnoses and treat patients. 

We have an impressive medical oncology division dedicated to the most up-to-date treatment and participation in clinical research. Our surgeons are versed in innovative and minimally invasive techniques in the treatment of prostate, thoracic, gynecologic, and gastrointestinal malignancies. We also have dedicated surgical oncologists who specialize in rare and complex cancer care. Our expert plastic surgeons offer a wide variety of reconstructive options to make people feel whole again. Our pathologists are critical to making challenging diagnoses and interoperative assessments that help us deliver high quality cancer care. 

We have a collaborative group of specialists, including gastroenterologists and pulmonologists, who are an integral part of cancer care from screening and workup to surveillance and treatment. The radiation oncology team offers comprehensive, innovative, and contemporary techniques that help to minimize side effects. Our survivorship program is led by fellowship-trained rehabilitation physicians who play a key role in helping our patients recover to their new normal. 

We also have a dedicated palliative care team that are critical in helping patients live as long as they can as comfortably as they can while respecting their wishes and honoring their values and preferences. Our clinic nurses and technicians have certification in oncology care. And our team includes a very specialized support staff, including genetic counselors, social work, fertility counseling, and integrative services. 

All of this makes up our VPCI family. We strive to give the highest quality of care across the continuum, including screening, prevention, acute care, survivorship, and end of life. VPCI is your home for cancer care.