The Next Step in Conquering All Cancers

January 13, 2021

mapf of NCI-designated cancer center in the region

The University of Kansas Cancer Center is the only NCI-designated cancer center in the region.

Team members at The University of Kansas Cancer Center are busy preparing their application for National Cancer Institute (NCI) designation renewal, a prestigious distinction held by only 70 other cancer centers in the United States. To retain designation, the cancer center undergoes a rigorous evaluation process conducted by nationally recognized peer reviewers every five years. The renewal application alone is no small feat – the last submittal exceeded 1,200 pages.

As the renewal application deadline approaches in September 2021, the team aspires to receive “Comprehensive” designation – the NCI’s top-tier ranking awarded to the very best cancer centers.

To receive this distinction, institutions must demonstrate significant depth and breadth in basic, clinical and translational research, with a clear focus on the cancers most affecting their communities. For KU Cancer Center, this means tailoring efforts to help those living in our catchment area, the entire state of Kansas and western Missouri.

Expanding clinical trial offerings

A major element of NCI Comprehensive designation is the ability to translate scientific discoveries into novel treatments. Nearly all cancer treatments used today were studied and made available to patients through clinical trials. Some clinical-trial patients are treated at the University of Kansas Clinical Research Center, a state-of-the-art research facility unlike any other in the country.

The Clinical Research Center is supported by the Johnson County Education Research Triangle (JCERT). Proceeds from the JCERT’s one-eighth-cent sales tax support phase I clinical trials, a vital component of the cancer center’s NCI designation, enhancing the cancer center’s ability to attract world-class physician-scientists and receive more grant funding.

In 2019, KU Cancer Center was awarded an NCI Community Oncology Research Program (NCORP) grant to expand the reach of clinical trials in Kansas’ rural communities. The cancer center is the only NCORP site in the country focused on rural areas. In 2020, the NCI awarded a $500,000, one-year grant that allows KU Cancer Center to offer NCI Experimental Therapeutics Clinical Trials Network (ETCTN)-sponsored early-phase clinical trials, with a focus on rural, minority and underserved populations. The aim of ETCTN is to advance early-phase clinical trials using novel investigational drugs.

The University of Kansas Cancer Center’s application for NCI Comprehensive designation represents the contributions of hundreds of people. The quest for Comprehensive is a collective pursuit that includes staff, community leaders, clinical-trial participants and advocates across the area. Earning Comprehensive status will take the institution to the next level, giving all people in the region greater access to breakthrough ideas and novel treatments, leading to even higher cancer survival rates.