Newswise — The National Cancer Institute (NCI), the U.S. federal government’s principal agency that funds cancer research, has renewed the University of Chicago Medicine Comprehensive Cancer Center’s designation as a comprehensive cancer center. The designation recognizes the center’s distinction as a center of research excellence in basic, clinical and population sciences, as well as a valued community and regional resource for cancer information, cancer education and cancer outreach.

The University of Chicago has been home to an NCI-designated cancer center since 1973, when the federal government set up the cancer center program following the National Cancer Act in 1971.

The University of Chicago Medicine Comprehensive Cancer Center is one of only two NCI-designated comprehensive cancer centers in Illinois—and one of 49 nationwide—to have earned this distinction. This is the third consecutive time the Cancer Center has received a five-year "comprehensive" designation since 2008.

"Developing important new discoveries that impact patients with cancer is a priority for the University of Chicago Medicine," said Kenneth Polonsky, MD, dean and executive vice president for medical affairs. "We have made substantial investments in building the physical and intellectual resources for cancer care and research, and receiving NCI’s highest mark again is an important part of fulfilling our mission."

All NCI cancer centers must demonstrate depth and breadth in laboratory and clinical research, transdisciplinary programs that bridge scientific areas, as well as professional and public education and outreach capabilities. Comprehensive cancer centers must also demonstrate depth and breadth in population-based research to elucidate the determinants of cancer, including the dissemination of clinical and public health advances to reduce the burden of cancer in the communities it serves and beyond.

In their review, the NCI gave the Comprehensive Cancer Center a “high impact” rating, complimenting its strengths in basic and translational cancer research. In addition, NCI reviewers commented that the Comprehensive Cancer Center is particularly strong with paradigm-altering discoveries, continued strong senior leadership by director Michelle M. Le Beau, PhD, robust institutional support, and effective clinical translation.

NCI also recognized the Comprehensive Cancer Center’s “exemplary” programs in career enhancement, education, and outreach and engagement with the African-American community in Chicago. Reviewers said the Comprehensive Cancer Center is well-positioned to continue to serve the populations in its surrounding areas and drive novel therapies for cancer.

"Our successful competitive grant renewal and re-designation from NCI is a testament of the scientific excellence we’ve worked hard to cultivate," said Le Beau, who has served as the director since 2004 and is the Arthur and Marian Edelstein Professor of Medicine. "We are honored to be among the top tier of cancer centers in the nation that are working to reduce cancer’s devastating effects and improve people’s lives both in Chicago and around the world."

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.

Currently, over 200 physicians and researchers perform groundbreaking research and translate their discoveries into personalized medicine to prevent and treat cancer. The Comprehensive Cancer Center offers more than 350 cancer therapeutic clinical trials, and holds more than $41 million in annual peer-reviewed research funding.

The Comprehensive Cancer Center faculty and staff also bring the latest information on prevention and treatment to help identify individuals at high risk for cancer based on genetic, behavioral and environmental factors, as well as develop interventions. They educate patients at elevated risk for cancer about prevention and early detection and provide a series of programs for residents of underserved communities.

To address the many complex issues patients face after a cancer diagnosis, the Comprehensive Cancer Center focuses clinical and research efforts on improving survivorship and quality of life.

Patient care and treatment takes place at the University of Chicago Medicine, where over 7,500 cancer patients are diagnosed and/or treated annually, and at several off-site locations, including the University of Chicago Medicine Comprehensive Cancer Center at Silver Cross Hospital, the University of Chicago Center for Advanced Care at Orland Park, and the University of Chicago Medicine at Ingalls Memorial Hospital.