Breaking New Ground: Constructing the First UPMC Hillman Cancer Center in Croatia

By: Lisa Lombardo

“Today marks the start of a journey toward progress, innovation and new access to life-saving medicine for more people, close to their homes,” said Chuck Bogosta, executive vice president, UPMC, and president, UPMC International.

“On behalf of our UPMC colleagues,” Bogosta continued, “it’s my honor to be with you today as we commemorate the momentous beginning of what will become the first UPMC Hillman Cancer Center in Croatia.”

At the December 21 groundbreaking ceremony for UPMC Hillman Cancer Center at Zabok General Hospital, local and country officials from Croatia and the United States joined with UPMC to mark the construction milestone for the center that’s set to open in 2025.

Per local tradition, there was a ceremonial laying of tuljac, a metal tube time capsule, buried by Bogosta alongside:

  • – Tomislav Dulibić, secretary general, Ministry of Health, Croatia
  • – Dragan Primorac, founder and chairman of St. Catherine Specialty Hospital
  • – Tihomir Vančina, principal, Zabok General Hospital
  • – Joel Nelson, M.D., executive vice president and chief clinical officer, UPMC, and chief medical officer and senior vice president, UPMC International
  • – Beth Wild, president, UPMC Hillman Cancer Center
  • – Željko Kolar, prefect, Krapina-Zagorje County, Croatia
  • – Mark Fleming, chargé d’affaires, U.S. Embassy in Croatia.
  • – Damir Habijan, minister of Economy and Sustainable Development, Croatia.


  • Best-in-Class Medicine to More People

The UPMC Hillman Cancer Center will be located on the campus of Zabok General Hospital within Krapina-Zagorje County, approximately 25 miles from the Croatian capital of Zagreb and in close proximity to Slovenia. It will provide cutting-edge cancer therapies and personalized medicine for people in Krapina-Zagorje County, all of Croatia and its neighboring countries.

For approximately five years, UPMC has worked with Prof. Primorac along with the Health Ministry and key stakeholders to understand and identify how we can partner to address the health care needs of this region.

“Building on UPMC’s legacy of providing advanced cancer care internationally — with nearly 80 centers in the United States and five centers in Europe, part of UPMC Italy and UPMC Ireland — we are combining decades of cancer care expertise with Professor Primorac’s track record as a successful health care leader and entrepreneur,” said Bogosta.

A Comprehensive Cancer Center, Close to Home

UPMC Hillman Cancer Center is internationally renowned for ushering in the most advanced, evidence-based treatments and clinical trials not previously available in local communities.

“We do this by leveraging our many centers of excellence in areas such as immunology, drug discovery and stereotactic radiosurgery,” said Wild. “This is made possible by our academic medical center collaboration with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences, that ranks third in the U.S. in National Institute of Health funding.”

The new center will bring comprehensive cancer care to the people of Croatia and beyond — with advanced radiation oncology, medical oncology and PET-CT diagnostics.

Cancer Prevention and Treatment for Generations to Come

This venture is an example of medical and scientific excellence coming together to develop a new concept of advanced diagnostics and therapies locally within Croatia.

UPMC looks forward to working with the Health Ministry and local hospitals and physicians to positively impact lives and support the Croatian health system’s goals for improving cancer prevention and treatment.
“We fondly welcome Croatia to our UPMC International family,” said Bogosta. “This exciting partnership supports to fuel the medical and research mission of UPMC around the world.”

Photographs by Rikard Jadan