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UMGCC Receives National Cancer Institute (NCI) Designation

The University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center (UMGCC) was recently named a National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated cancer center. Here, Kevin J. Cullen, M.D., director of the cancer center, explains what the designation means and why it is important to patients.

What is an NCI-designated cancer center, and why is it considered such an important distinction?

Dr. Cullen at Cancer Center

Learn more: Watch a video of Dr. Kevin Cullen, cancer center director, discussing the NCI designation.

The NCI Cancer Centers Program was set up to help advance scientific research into the causes and treatment of cancer. It recognizes those centers that are actively engaged in conducting research into ways to reduce the incidence and impact of cancer in their communities. The designation comes with very stringent requirements about the quality of a center's scientific research. It is the ultimate "seal of approval," if you will, for cancer centers nationwide.

We are one of only 64 cancer centers in the country that have achieved this distinction. So, to be recognized in this way is a tremendous honor and achievement for us. It means that UMGCC is one of the top cancer centers in the United States.

What is required for a cancer center to be designated an NCI cancer center?

NCI cancer centers are selected through a highly competitive, peer-reviewed process. It involves an exhaustive and detailed review of every facet of our cancer center -- our research activities, clinical programs, faculty and staff, administrative structure, laboratories and clinical facilities. The multi-year process culminates in a site visit evaluation by a team of cancer experts from the NCI and other major cancer programs.

Receiving the designation is a goal that we have been preparing for and working towards for a number of years. Our cancer center has seen tremendous growth and development in the past five years, both in our clinical and research programs. This designation is recognition of the fact that we are making significant contributions to the field of cancer research and providing state-of-the art therapies for thousands of patients in the mid-Atlantic region each year.

What strengths does UMGCC have that led to its selection by the NCI?

We have an outstanding faculty and staff, high quality scientific research programs, and extremely strong state, institutional and philanthropic support. We are fortunate to benefit from the cancer research funding made available through Maryland's Cigarette Restitution Fund Program. We have multidisciplinary teams of experts who treat every major type of cancer there is, and who successfully treat thousands of patients each year with the latest therapies available.

We have over 150 clinical trials underway studying new ways to prevent, detect and treat cancer. We have a strong commitment to addressing cancer disparities in underserved populations. And, we have a strong partnership with the University of Maryland School of Medicine's Institute for Human Virology, which is allowing us to do exciting collaborative research into cancer vaccines and HIV-related cancers.

Does the NCI designation bring significant research funding to the cancer center?

The funding is intended mostly to support infrastructure to advance our research and clinical activities. It provides up to $3 million over the next three years.

Besides funding, what benefits does the designation bring to the cancer center?

It brings us the prestige of being one of the top cancer centers in the country. It allows us to participate in a number of NCI-sponsored clinical trials that we were not eligible for before. It allows us to continue to recruit outstanding scientists and clinical leaders in the field of cancer. And, it signals to our patients and the public that this is a place where they will find the best minds and the most advanced therapies being brought to bear in the fight against cancer.

The past several years have seen tremendously exciting developments in our understanding of how cancer cells develop, multiply and grow in the human body. From these basic science discoveries, we are moving towards developing new treatments -- like Dr. Angela Brodie's work here at Maryland developing aromatase inhibitors for the treatment of breast cancer -- that will save lives. We are gratified to be working in the field of cancer at this exciting time, and we look forward to helping to move these advances from the laboratory to the bedside, to make a real difference in people's lives.

This page was last updated on: September 8, 2008.