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The heart and soul of any Comprehensive Cancer Center is its membership.

An NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center

UNC Lineberger is a National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center. NCI-designated Cancer Centers are the centerpiece of the nation’s effort to reduce morbidity and mortality from cancer. They are a major source of discovery of the nature of cancer, and of development of more effective approaches to prevention, diagnosis, and therapy. Cancer centers also deliver medical advances to patients and their families, educate health-care professionals and the public, and reach out to under-served populations.

Members Participate in Research Programs

Cancer centers promote cancer-focused research through formal scientific research programs. The UNC Lineberger currently has nine programs: Cancer Cell Biology, Immunology, Molecular Therapeutics, Virology, Cancer Genetics, Clinical Research, Cancer Prevention & Control, and Cancer Epidemiology.

Programs organize, promote, and facilitate the activities of a group of investigators who share common scientific interests and goals and participate in competitively funded research. Programs are highly interactive and lead to exchange of information that enhance productivity, collaboration, and scientific advances. Ultimately, program success is measured by scientific excellence and the emergence of productive collaborations. How success is achieved varies by the center and the program needs. Formal or informal planning meetings, seminars and retreats, developmental funding of selected pilot projects, new shared resources, or key recruitments are effective ways of promoting increasing levels of interaction.

Programs select individuals for their scientific excellence and for their commitment to work together. Although the emphasis is on research, Program members may contribute in any of the four missions of the cancer center – research, education, dissemination, and care. Program members who are predominantly educators or clinical investigators will not necessarily hold peer-reviewed grants but may contribute to the objectives of the center in other important ways.

Cancer Center Program: Philosophy and Policies (from NCI Cancer Center Guidelines, 2013)

An NCI-designated Cancer Center is a local, regional, and national resource, directly serving its community and, through the knowledge it creates, the nation as a whole. They feature vigorous interactions across research areas. In addition, centers also facilitate transition of scientific findings through the translational pipeline. Discoveries may be advanced through NCI and other peer-reviewed translational science and clinical trial funding mechanisms and other collaborative strategies, including external partnerships.

Although the NCI Center core Support Grant does not directly fund the wider range of activities at cancer centers, an NCI-designated Cancer Center links state-of-the-art research and care, thus perpetuating the translational continuum. To decrease cancer incidence and mortality among populations within its catchment area, including minority and underserved populations, it also establishes partnerships with other health delivery systems and state and community agencies for dissemination of evidence-based findings.

NCI-designated cancer centers display three features and have six essential characteristics.

Three Features of an NCI-designated Cancer Center (from NCI Cancer Center Guidelines, 2013)

A Policy of Inclusion: An NCI-designated Cancer Center capitalizes on all institutional cancer research capabilities, integrating cancer related programs in basic laboratory; clinical; and prevention, cancer control and population-based sciences into a single transdisciplinary cancer center research enterprise across departmental, school, and institutional boundaries. A major test of both institutional commitment and the quality of center leadership is to strengthen and unite all major areas of research present within the institution, and to harmonize research with education, service, and care.

Excellence in Cancer Research: All NCI-designated Cancer Centers excel in cancer research. Successful cancer centers have scientifically rigorous research, supported by peer-reviewed grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other sources and organized into formal collaborative cancer-focused Programs.

Education and Dissemination: Cancer centers integrate training and education of biomedical researchers and health care professionals, including those from underserved populations into their programmatic research efforts, thereby furthering the scientific mission of the center. Centers also disseminate their medical advances as rapidly as possible via professional and public education and partnerships with public health or clinical service delivery systems, thus ensuring benefit to patients, professionals, and the general public.

The Six Essential Characteristics of an NCI-designated Cancer Center (from NCI Cancer Center Guidelines, 2013)

  • Facilities: The Center should have facilities dedicated to the conduct of cancer focused research. The Center’s shared resources, administration, and research dissemination should be appropriate and adequate to the task.
  • Organizational Capabilities: The conduct of research and the evaluation and planning of center activities should take maximum advantage of the parent institution’s capabilities in cancer research. The Center also has a process for integrating education and training, particularly for those from underserved populations, into research efforts. And, it uses its available research expertise and resources to address cancer problems within the catchment area.
  • Interdisciplinary and Transdisciplinary Collaboration and Coordination: Substantial coordination, interaction, and collaboration among center members from a variety of disciplines should enhance and add value to the productivity and quality of research in the Center. As appropriate to the research, centers facilitate translation of scientific findings via other funding mechanisms and through partnerships.
  • Cancer Focus: A defined scientific focus on cancer research should be clear from the center members’ grants and contracts, and from the structure and objectives of its programs.
  • Institutional Commitment: The Center is recognized as a formal organizational component with sufficient space, positions and resources to insure organizational stability and fulfill the center’s objectives. The Center Director has appropriate authorities. The institution recognizes team science in tenure and promotion policies.
  • Center Director: The Director should be a highly qualified scientist and administrator with leadership experience, institutional authority appropriate to manage the Center, and demonstrated effectiveness in leading the Center.