Newswise — The University of New Mexico Comprehensive Cancer Center has once again been awarded the highest designation and rating in the United States for cancer treatment and research programs.

Comprehensive designation from the National Cancer Institute recognizes the UNM Comprehensive Cancer Center as one of the 51 leading cancer centers in the nation and the only such cancer center in New Mexico.

“We committed to building New Mexico’s finest, most comprehensive center for cancer prevention, research and treatment,” says Cheryl L. Willman, MD. “We have done just that once again.”

Willman led the UNM Cancer Center as director and CEO for 20 years, from initial designation in 2005 and renewals in 2010 and 2015 through this year’s effort. She assumed world-wide leadership of Mayo Clinic’s cancer programs on August 1.

“We are thrilled by this re-designation,” says Alan E. Tomkinson, PhD, interim director and CEO of the UNM Cancer Center. “Comprehensive designation is a testament to the world-class quality of our clinical and research programs. We’re proud to be able to offer the finest cancer care to all New Mexicans.”

Comprehensive designation requires an intensive federal re-certification and designation process every five years. The rigorous process requires the submission of a nearly 1,500-page application followed by an on-site evaluation, which was conducted remotely this year because of the global COVID-19 pandemic.

The application included cancer patient data and outcomes for each person treated at the Center; the development and results of all cancer clinical trials that test new diagnostics and therapies; the results of all laboratory and population-based research; the status of all statewide and national outreach programs and community collaborations; the results of all workforce development and all education and training programs for cancer-trained physicians, nurses, pharmacists, scientists and others; and, the impact of the Center’s programs on its state and region, including economic development and outreach, and addressing the cancer needs and burden of the state.

Douglas Ziedonis, MD, MPH, UNM’s Executive Vice President for Health Sciences and CEO of the UNM Health System, took part in the reapplication process and the NCI’s virtual evaluation.

“We are very proud of our Cancer Center’s faculty and staff and their commitment to excellence, making a difference and helping all New Mexicans,” he says. “The basic, clinical and translational research it conducts, the people it trains, the community outreach it accomplishes and the most advanced cancer care that it offers are vital to our institution and to the people of New Mexico.”


About Cheryl Willman, MD

Cheryl L. Willman, MD, served as Director and CEO of the UNM Comprehensive Cancer Center from 1999 until 2021. She is a Distinguished Emeritus Professor at the UNM School of Medicine. An internationally recognized leukemia researcher, Dr. Willman was named Executive Director of Mayo Clinic Cancer Programs and Director of Mayo Clinic Comprehensive Cancer Center on August 1.

About Alan Tomkinson, PhD

Alan E. Tomkinson, PhD, serves as interim Director and CEO of the UNM Comprehensive Cancer Center. He is a Professor in the UNM Department of Internal Medicine and holds The Victor and Ruby Hansen Surface Endowed Chair in Cancer Research. He also serves as Associate Director for Basic Research at the UNM Cancer Center. Dr. Tomkinson is an international expert in the DNA repair mechanisms that prevent cancer by maintaining genome stability and in understanding how these pathways are perturbed in cancer cells. His work is leading to the development of new therapies which target these alterations in cancer cells.

About Douglas Ziedonis, MD, MPH

Douglas Ziedonis, MD, MPH, has served as Executive Vice President for UNM Health Sciences and CEO for the UNM Health System since December 1, 2020. He has breadth of experience and has held leadership roles at academic institutions as varied as the University of California, San Diego, UCLA, UMass, Yale University and Rutgers, and he has conducted extensive work with diverse populations, including Indigenous communities. Additionally, he is a Distinguished Professor whose own medical and public health research and leadership  impact  continues to address health disparities – including issues such as cancer prevention, homelessness, mental illness and addiction – and being a champion for diversity and inclusive excellence.

About the Grant

The National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health supported the research reported in this publication under Award Number P30CA118100, Principal Investigator: Tomkinson, Alan. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.