UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center Magazine Fall 2016 - Page 5

The Cancer Center Support Grant is the most prestigious federal grant that can be earned by an institution with significant cancer research and patient-care programs. The renewal also extends UAB’s elite “comprehensive” designation, which is characterized by scientific excellence and the ability to integrate diverse research approaches in the fight against cancer. UAB was one of the first eight institutions to be designated as a comprehensive cancer center when President Richard Nixon declared “War on Cancer” by signing the National Cancer Act in 1971. That original investment from the NCI – a $254,334 planning grant – has paid off significantly. Today, the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center is home to more than 330 scientists and physicians, representing 30 departments across nine UAB schools, while also generating more than $100 million in research support from outside sources. Its NCI designation sets the center apart, placing it squarely among the top cancer research and treatment institutions in the nation. Funding To Help Eliminate Cancer Threat “I believe that by 2050 we can eliminate cancer as a public health problem,” says Cancer Center director Edward Partridge, M.D. “That doesn’t mean cancer will go away, but that we can treat cancer just like we do other diseases. We want to get to the point where we can prevent, detect early and manage the disease, so patients can lead long, productive lives. This critical funding from the NCI helps us get there. We are now poised to take our research to the next level and deliver new and advanced treatments to our patients as quickly and safely as possible.” To receive NCI core grant renewal, the Cancer Center must undergo a competitive and rigorous peer-review process every five years. This includes an extensive written evaluation and an in-person site visit from an NCI review team. This year, the Cancer Center received an “outstanding” rating, its highest ever, and was recognized for its growth and expertise in its translational capabilities of bringing basic scientific discoveries into the clinic, as well as demonstrating the depth and breadth in laboratory, clinical and population-based research. “To get our comprehensive designation, we go through the same process as every other NCI-designated center, whether it’s MD Anderson or Memorial Sloan-Kettering,” Dr. Partridge says. “There is absolutely no difference in how we are evaluated based on quality of science and care.” Although researchers receive grants that support their research, NCI funding provides the infrastructure to extend their capabilities for maximized productivity. For example, a large portion of the grant sustains core facilities, which are shared research resources that house state-of-the-art technologies and expertise that investigators could not otherwise afford (see sidebar). The funding also supports leadership, so they can coordinate and promote the growth of research programs and initiatives and recruit new faculty. A portion also goes to develop young scientists and for administrative functions. “Bottom line, our core grant provides the infrastructure to support all our scientists who strive every day to reduce the cancer burden,” says Dr. Partridge. Research Powerhouse The Cancer Center is one of only 45 NCI-designated comprehensive cancer centers in the United States, and the only one in Alabama and the Deep South region that includes South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas. Mortality rates for cancer are substantially higher in this part of the country, which also has a higher population of African-Americans. The Cancer Center’s basic science and translational therapeutic programs conduct research that is highly relevant to this population, including leading efforts in triple negative breast cancer, multiple myeloma, prostate cancer and skin cancer. The Cancer Center’s prevention and control programs have emphasis in reducing disparities and incorporating age-appropriate screening, diet and physical activity, and tobacco-use reduction, all more problematic in AfricanAmerican and other traditionally underserved populations. Obesity has an especially dramatic impact in this part of the country, and researchers are working hard to determine what this means for cancer, as well as surviving the disease once it is diagnosed. The Cancer Center’s research activities are divided # K N O W U A B C C C • U A B . E D U / C A N C E R 3