NCI renews Cancer Center core grant; $20.8 million awarded to support cancer research

NCI renews Cancer Center core grant; $20.8 million awarded to support cancer research

The Arizona Cancer Center has received a five-year, $20.8 million grant from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to renew support for its cancer research programs through 2014.

The grant renewal, which came with an “excellent” rating, also extends the Cancer Center’s designation as one of 40 comprehensive cancer centers in the United States, and the only NCI-designated comprehensive cancer center headquartered in Arizona. The Arizona Cancer Center (AZCC) at The University of Arizona has operated continuously with NCI support, or “core” grants, since 1978, when the cancer center received a $1 million federal award.

“The National Cancer Institute has again recognized the high quality of our research programs and our faculty and staff with this grant renewal,” said David S. Alberts, MD, director of the Arizona Cancer Center. “Continuation of our funding, for more than 30 years, allows the Arizona Cancer Center to achieve its mission of serving the entire state of Arizona with translational research in cancer prevention and treatment, patient care, education and outreach.”

“The receipt of this support grant renewal, and the ‘excellent’ rating, is a direct reflection on the extremely high quality and innovative work of our entire Arizona Cancer Center team,” Dr. Alberts said.

In announcing the grant renewal, the NCI said, “The AZCC is a Cancer Center that continues to make significant contributions to the national cancer research effort. Strengths of the Cancer Center are in the areas of chemoprevention, drug development and fundamental aspects of imaging. The AZCC has expanded its activities as a consortium across the state with the goal of bringing advances made at the AZCC to all the people of Arizona.”

The federal funding – a 5 percent increase in NCI funding to the Cancer Center -- will be used to support five research programs, 13 shared services, and other functions serving the entire organization. In fiscal year 2008, the Arizona Cancer Center was 25th in total NCI funding among the comprehensive cancer centers nationally with more than $29 million in NCI awards.

To achieve the grant renewal, the Arizona Cancer Center submitted a 1,054-page application document and hosted a 32-member peer-review committee visit in February. The evaluators looked at the success of the Arizona Cancer Center in conducting basic research, translating that research to patient care, educating and training the next generation of scientists and researchers, recruiting patients into clinical trials and reaching out into the community with educational programs.

To be designated a comprehensive cancer center by the National Cancer Institute, a cancer center must demonstrate depth and breadth of activities in three major areas of cancer research: basic, clinical and prevention control and population-based research. In clinical research, a comprehensive cancer center must conduct early-phase, innovative clinical trials that accrue thousands of patients over a five-year period. In 2007-2008, 1,707 participants were enrolled in clinical trials – therapeutic and prevention intervention – at the Arizona Cancer Center. A comprehensive cancer center also must provide outreach, education and information on cancer. The Arizona Cancer Center initially was designated by NCI as a comprehensive cancer center in 1990.

The Arizona Cancer Center’s five core research programs are in cancer prevention and control; cancer biology and genetics; cancer imaging; gastrointestinal cancer; and therapeutic development. The shared services include genomics, flow cytometry and biometry, which each received “outstanding” ratings from the NCI site review team.

In addition, the Arizona Cancer Center has two prestigious Specialized Program of Research Excellence, or SPORE, awards from NCI for research in gastrointestinal cancer and lymphomas. The Cancer Center also has NCI program project grants for novel drug development, novel imaging technology, colon cancer prevention, pancreatic cancer drug development, prostate cancer bone metastases and skin cancer prevention.