A Comprehensive Cancer Center Designated by the National Cancer Institute

Pathways to Discovery: Spring 2013

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National Cancer Institute Reviews the UCCCC's Comprehensive Cancer Center Status

The University of Chicago Medicine Comprehensive Cancer Center (UCCCC) completed a successful review for a 5-year P30 Cancer Center Support Grant (CCSG) and was recommended for renewal as a Comprehensive Cancer Center by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The UCCCC is one of only 41 Comprehensive Cancer Centers nationwide, and one of only two in Illinois, to have earned this prestigious status. The designation represents the highest mark of excellence in basic, clinical, and population research, and an institution’s dedication to developing more effective treatments for cancer.

“The outstanding work of our Cancer Center is central to our missions of research, education, and advanced clinical care to improve the options and outcomes of patients diagnosed with cancer and to prevent these diseases,” said Everett Vokes, MD, John E. Ultmann Professor of Medicine and Radiation Oncology, chair of the Department of Medicine.

When the National Cancer Act was signed into law in 1971, the NCI created a Cancer Centers Program to support the work of centers that excel at making scientific discoveries and applying them to new approaches to cancer prevention, diagnosis, and treatment.

Although individual investigators at these institutions receive grant support for specific research projects, the funding provided by the CCSG extends their capability through the provision of the necessary infrastructure, and, as a result, maximizes productivity. For example, a large portion of the CCSG at the UCCCC sustains core facilities, which are shared research resources that house state-of-the-art technologies and expertise that investigators could not otherwise afford. The grant also supports the UCCCC’s strategic leadership to coordinate and promote the growth of research programs and initiatives, as well as to recruit new faculty.

Additionally, the CCSG provides pilot project funding, which allows investigators to develop some of their newest ideas and generate the preliminary results needed to apply for national grant funding. To qualify for the CCSG award and accompanying NCI designation, institutions must successfully meet rigorous competitive standards associated with scientific and organizational merit. Centers are evaluated on the innovativeness and impact of their research in clinical, basic, translational, and population sciences. In addition, the following six essential characteristics are assessed: facilities; organizational capabilities; transdisciplinary collaboration and coordination; cancer focus; institutional commitment; and the center director.

The UCCCC received accolades in numerous areas, including its innovative research on epidemiology and the genetic basis of cancer, the molecular mechanisms of transformation, tumor immunology, hematological malignant diseases, and imaging sciences, as well as its innovative clinical trials portfolio and exceptional pharmacogenomics research.

The UCCCC devoted one full year in preparation of the CCSG grant, which concluded with a site visit that showcased the past 5 years of research for the NCI review committee. At this most recent review, the UCCCC was awarded its best score, and was rated as exceptional-outstanding. The areas that received particular recognition were institutional commitment and transdisciplinary collaboration and coordination, according to UCCCC Director Michelle M. Le Beau, PhD, Arthur and Marian Edelstein Professor of Medicine.

“For a center of our size, we have a remarkable number of multi-investigator grants, which highlights the collaborative nature of our faculty and how they bring unique skills to push the field of cancer research forward as a team,” she said.

“Under Dr. Le Beau’s leadership, the UCCCC fosters truly multidisciplinary research, providing an outstanding platform for new cancer discoveries,” said Habibul Ahsan, MBBS, MMedSc, Louis Block Professor of Health Studies, Medicine, and Human Genetics, and associate director for population research. “The UCCCC’s successful competitive grant review and recommendation for re-designation as a Comprehensive Cancer Center is a testament of its achievement.”

Ernst Lengyel