Comprehensive Cancer Center status renewed

Comprehensive Cancer Center status renewed

May 9, 2013

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) has renewed the University of Chicago Medicine's designation as a comprehensive cancer center, a prestigious distinction that the federal agency grants to recognize an institution's excellence in research.

The University of Chicago Medicine Comprehensive Cancer Center is one of only two NCI-designated comprehensive cancer centers in Illinois -- and one of 41 nationwide -- to have earned this distinction. This is the second consecutive time the Cancer Center has received a five-year "comprehensive" designation since 2008, when it was awarded its highest NCI review score up to that point. This year, that score was even higher.

In its review, the NCI praised several of the Cancer Center's major strengths. These include 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 the innovative clinical trials portfolio and exceptional pharmacogenomics research.

"Designation as a comprehensive cancer center is the highest mark of medical and scientific excellence," said Kenneth Polonsky, MD, dean and executive vice president for medical affairs. "We are proud of our efforts to remain at the forefront of cancer care for children and adults."

Comprehensive cancer centers must meet rigorous criteria for "world-class, state-of-the-art programs in multidisciplinary cancer research," according to the NCI. All NCI cancer centers commit significant resources to research programs, faculty, staff and facilities. They must demonstrate depth and breadth in laboratory, clinical and population-based research, as well as transdisciplinary programs that bridge scientific areas. A comprehensive cancer center also must demonstrate "professional and public education and outreach capabilities, including the dissemination of clinical and public health advances in the communities it serves."

Grant funding that accompanies the designation supports shared resources for research, provides developmental funds to advance scientific goals, and fosters cancer programs that draw investigators from different disciplines together.

"Our heartfelt thanks goes to the hundreds of faculty, staff, donors and volunteers who helped complete our application for re-designation as a comprehensive cancer center from the National Cancer Institute," said Michelle LeBeau, PhD, Comprehensive Cancer Center director. "Our application, along with the onsite tour hosted for the NCI review committee, garnered an exceptional report."

The University of Chicago has been home to an NCI-designated cancer center since 1973, when the federal government set up the cancer center network following the National Cancer Act in 1971. This program was created to recognize the leading clinical and research centers in the country and to help patients find the facilities that offered the most advanced research and treatment.

The University of Chicago has long played a leading role in understanding the basic biology of cancer and developing new treatments. More than 200 physicians and researchers perform groundbreaking research and translate their discoveries into personalized medicine to prevent and treat cancer. The University of Chicago's Comprehensive Cancer Center offers 320 cancer therapeutic clinical trials, more than any other institution in Illinois.

Cancer Center faculty and staff also bring the latest information on prevention and treatment to community physicians. They educate patients at elevated risk for cancer about prevention and early detection and provide a series of programs for residents of underserved communities.

Patient care and treatment takes place at the University of Chicago Medical Center, where almost 4,000 cancer patients are diagnosed and/or treated annually, and at several off-site locations, including the University of Chicago Medicine Cancer Center at Silver Cross Hospital, which opened last summer.