‘Comprehensive’ step nears for cancer center

Published: 03/11/2016

KU Clinical Research CenterIn barely six months – Sept. 26 to be exact – The University of Kansas Cancer Center will apply for the National Cancer Institute’s highest level of designation: comprehensive status.

Of the nation’s more than 5,000 cancer centers, just 69 are NCI-designated. Of those, only 45 have achieved comprehensive designation.

The cancer center reached the first level of NCI designation in June 2012. Pursuing the higher level now is akin to, well – consider it in sports terms.

“Becoming an NCI-designated Cancer Center was analogous to reaching the big leagues,” said Danny Welch, PhD, the cancer center’s director of Basic Science, “but becoming a Comprehensive Cancer Center is like going to the All Stars.”

Since reaching the first level of NCI designation, cancer center staff point out, their efforts have become “wider, deeper and larger.”

In particular, they have:
  • Increased clinical trials and participation levels. By the end of 2015, 122 new clinical trials had opened and more than 1,400 patients participated in trials.
  • Expanded cancer prevention outreach, including a focus on curbing obesity and smoking and boosting skin cancer screening and human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccinations. The Midwest Cancer Alliance, the center’s outreach arm, has grown to 21 member hospitals/facilities. 
  • Extended the number of NCI-funded studies to 72.
  • Strengthened collaboration among cancer biologists, geneticists, survivorship experts and others in the field.  

After its application in September, the cancer center will face a rigorous evaluation process by a site visit team sent by the NCI Office of Cancer Centers. Findings are expected to be announced by June 2017.

“While the process for comprehensive designation is exactly the same, the criteria are amped up a bit,” said Welch, who is leading the strategic planning process for comprehensive designation along with Terry Tsue, MD, the cancer center’s physician-in-chief.

“We have already made significant advances since we earned NCI designation in 2012,” added Roy Jensen, MD, cancer center director, “but we have a lot to do by late September to reach the next level.”


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