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National Cancer Institute Renews Roswell Park’s Prestigious ‘Comprehensive’ Designation

Jun 10, 2019
Press Release
Nation’s longest-standing dedicated cancer center awarded 5-year, $22.5 million grant to pursue its mission

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) has affirmed its support for Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, renewing its status as one of 50 elite Comprehensive Cancer Centers and awarding a $22.5 million Cancer Center Support Grant (CCSG) to fund core research and education programs — the largest such award and highest application score in Roswell Park’s history. Roswell Park has held this prestigious NCI designation continuously since it became one of the nation’s very first Comprehensive Cancer Centers more than 45 years ago.

“Over 120 years ago Roswell Park earned the distinction of being the first dedicated cancer research center, and Roswell has continued its role as a national leader in cancer research and care ever since,” says Congressman Brian Higgins. “Roswell is a special place that exudes both confidence and community. There is a feeling when you walk into these buildings that we are in this fight against cancer together, from the doctors and nurses, to the researchers and volunteers, patients and loved ones. This significant federal grant and renewal of Roswell’s Comprehensive Cancer Center status are the result of the hard work put in here at Roswell each and every day; hard work that gives cancer patients right here and around the world hope for tomorrow.”

 “This is the most coveted and competitive distinction in cancer, and our team has once again demonstrated that we can serve our community in a way no one else can,” says Roswell Park President and CEO Candace S. Johnson, PhD. “You have to excel in so many areas to earn this — patient care, bench research, clinical research, education for the next generation of cancer scientists and how you’re reaching out to your community. We have incredible teams working in all those areas, all fired by the passion to defeat cancer. There is no doubt that our community receives superior cancer care because of the rigor that the NCI imposes on places like Roswell Park.”

NCI Cancer Center Support Grants, also known as Core Grants, are awarded to support the research mission of centers that demonstrate strong programs in cancer care, research and education. Through a process involving rigorous peer review, they look at a center’s leadership and organization as well as its ability to reduce the impact of cancer on the community it serves through programming in five key areas: basic laboratory research, clinical research, population and prevention studies, career education and community outreach/engagement.

“Roswell Park has strong basic science in many areas, an outstanding Center Director, and exceptional facilities,” the peer reviewers, a group of oncology leaders through the country, wrote in assessing Roswell Park’s application. “Roswell Park is an important regional and national resource for cancer research and care. Under the strong leadership of Dr. Johnson, and with the continued commitment of the Institution, Roswell Park is poised to continue its solid upward trajectory.”

“Our NCI designation and Core Grant authenticate that Roswell Park’s cancer research, education and clinical care are world-class, providing funds that are vital to sustain our research programs and scientific infrastructure,” notes Kunle Odunsi, MD, PhD, who leads Roswell Park’s science program in his role as the center’s Deputy Director. “We have unique assets in terms of both our team and our technological resources that are the envy of many other centers, in large part because we continually demonstrate to the NCI and our peers around the country that we have the expertise and strategy to put those tools to effective use benefiting patients locally as well as globally. We are the gold standard for cancer care in our region.”

Comprehensive Cancer Center status has also been linked with improved patient outcomes. Three major studies concluded that long-term survival rates were improved by 6-20% overall, and within specific cancer types, for patients who received their cancer treatment from the start at an NCI-Designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, compared to those treated other teaching hospital and community cancer treatment settings.

During an announcement today at the Buffalo cancer center, survivors representing several cancer types took part in a group ringing of Roswell Park’s Victory Bell, which patients typically ring to celebrate a milestone of cancer treatment. 

“Across the decades, Roswell Park has helped define what comprehensive cancer care is — for our community, the region, and the world,” says cancer survivor Kathleen Maxian, a Pendleton resident who is founder of the Ovarian Cancer Project and has served on several NCI advisory panels. “This center brings resources and expertise that people like me rely on every single day.”

In addition to Drs. Johnson and Odunsi, 10 Roswell Park faculty leaders oversee the five arms of Roswell Park’s scientific program — Cell Stress and Biophysical Therapies Program, Developmental Therapeutics, Genetics and Genomics, Population Sciences, and Tumor Immunology and Immunotherapy — and are charged with fulfilling the goals of the CCSG.

Roswell Park was founded in 1898 as the nation’s first center dedicated to cancer research. Today, a team of more than 3,500 works in all areas of cancer prevention, research, education, clinical care and supportive services, benefiting patients and generating economic impact of more than $1 billion annually.

For more information about how Roswell Park’s status as a Comprehensive Cancer Center impacts our community, see our fact sheet and video.