Center joins elite group of cancer research and treatment facilities in U.S.
The University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center has been selected as a National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated cancer center, a distinction shared by only 63 other centers across the country.
The NCI bestows this special designation on the nation’s top cancer centers in recognition of their scientific excellence and outstanding patient care. NCI-designated centers are selected through a highly competitive, peer-reviewed process, made even more competitive in the wake of recent NCI funding cutbacks.
“This is a tremendous honor and achievement for all who work in the cancer center and share a vision to defeat cancer. It’s also a tribute to our tireless supporters inside and outside of the cancer center who embrace this vision and have made this day possible,” says Kevin J. Cullen, M.D., director of the University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center and professor of medicine and pharmacology and experimental therapeutics at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
The University of Maryland Greenebaum Cancer Center, located in Baltimore, is part of both the University of Maryland Medical Center and the University of Maryland School of Medicine. All of the center’s researchers and physicians are on the faculty of the medical school and other professional schools at the University of Maryland, Baltimore.
E. Albert Reece, M.D., Ph.D., M.B.A., vice president of medical affairs, University of Maryland, and dean of the University of Maryland School of Medicine, praised the cancer center’s commitment to research.
“The cancer center has an outstanding basic science and clinical research program, with some of the best scientific minds in the country working to unravel the mysteries of cancer,” Dr. Reece says. “I believe this well-deserved recognition will pave the way for major breakthroughs in cancer research that will benefit patients everywhere.”
A researcher at the cancer center, Angela H. Brodie, Ph.D., a professor of pharmacology and experimental therapeutics at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, already has made a major contribution to the treatment of breast cancer with the discovery and development of a new class of drugs called aromatase inhibitors, which are used worldwide.
Jeffrey A. Rivest, president and chief executive officer of the University of Maryland Medical Center, says, “We are extremely proud that the National Cancer Institute has accorded this special status to the Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center. This designation will enhance our ability to provide excellent care for our patients and conduct clinical trials that provide cutting-edge cancer treatments to patients long before they are widely available,” he says.
Dr. Cullen notes that the Greenebaum Cancer Center cares for patients throughout Maryland and the region but has a unique commitment to minorities and underserved communities. “African-Americans represent more than 40 percent of our patients, and nearly half of them take part in clinical trials. Nationally, less than 2 percent of African-American cancer patients participate in clinical trials,” he says.
“African-Americans, here and elsewhere, have a much higher death rate from cancer than white patients with the same disease, and we need to look at the underlying reasons. Their participation in clinical trials provides us with valuable information to better understand cancer in this community and to develop effective treatments,” Dr. Cullen says. “Our commitment to addressing health disparities among minorities sets us apart from many other cancer centers.”
He also cites the center’s close working relationship with the University of Maryland School of Medicine’s Institute of Human Virology, with researchers collaborating on ways to prevent and treat cancers which are increasingly prevalent in people who are HIV-positive and those with AIDS.
“The rise in HIV-related cancers is a growing public health concern in the United States and worldwide. Those infected with HIV have a much higher risk of developing cancer,” says Robert C. Gallo, M.D., the institute’s director and a professor of medicine and microbiology and immunology at the School of Medicine, who co-discovered that the HIV virus caused AIDS. “The NCI recognizes the enormity of the problem, and with its continued support, we will be able to significantly expand our research with the cancer center on HIV-related malignancies and in other areas, such as cancer vaccine development.”
The NCI recognizes centers in two categories – cancer centers and comprehensive cancer centers. The Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center was approved as a designated cancer center. The main difference is that comprehensive centers have epidemiological research programs.
There are 41 NCI-designated comprehensive cancer centers and 23 designated cancer centers in the United States, including the Greenebaum Cancer Center. All of the centers are funded through the P30 Cancer Center Support Grant, and as part of the designation, the Greenebaum Cancer Center will receive up to $3 million in NCI funding over the next three years. The designation also will open the door to grants and NCI-funded cancer studies offered only to designated centers and may help to generate additional funding from other public and private sources.
The process of applying for and receiving NCI designation often takes many years. Dr. Cullen, a head-and-neck cancer specialist who was recruited from Georgetown University in 2004, has spearheaded the Greenebaum Cancer Center’s efforts to seek the designation.
Since then, he has recruited more than 40 top clinicians and researchers, significantly expanded the cancer center’s research and clinical programs, and overseen efforts to rebuild laboratory facilities and modernize inpatient rooms – with support from the Maryland Cigarette Restitution Fund Program. Total research funding for the cancer center has nearly doubled since 2002, to $48.1 million, with $14.4 million from the NCI. In June 2005, the cancer center also opened a new, state-of-the-art outpatient area, the Roslyn and Leonard Stoler Pavilion, designed to promote multidisciplinary patient care.
The cancer center has comprehensive programs to treat all types of cancer and is a major referral center for patients throughout Maryland and the region. Recently, it has been recognized as one of the top 50 cancer centers in the United States by U.S. News and World Report. It is named for real estate developer and businessman Stewart Greenebaum and his wife, Marlene, a breast cancer survivor. They called the NCI designation “perhaps the most important event” in the center’s history.
“What makes this news so exciting is that while the official recognition is to the center, in truth, the recognition is to all of you,” the Greenebaums said in a letter to the cancer center staff. “Your extraordinary cutting-edge contributions, while already known to many, are now officially recognized. It is your brilliance and compassion to your fellow man that has earned you this great honor. We are both proud and humbled to have our names associated with all of you.”