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Exceptional Destination

January 28, 2016

Only a few treatment centers merit the National Cancer Institute’s highest designation: Comprehensive.

Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center (VICC) has had its designation renewed. One of 45 Comprehensive Cancer Centers in the United States, VICC will receive almost $30 million over five years to support its mission of delivering promising new therapies to patients, discovering new approaches to treatment and educating people about cancer prevention.

A panel of reviewers for the National Care Institute (NCI) gave VICC an overall “exceptional” score in renewing its comprehensive designation. This is the center’s third renewal since it merited comprehensive status in 2001. The NCI had earlier named VICC as a Cancer Center in 1995.

The $30 million comes from a NCI Cancer Center Support Grant (CCSG). That grant supports scientific leadership and administration, as well as infrastructure that includes shared resources for cancer investigators. Despite tight federal budgets, VICC will receive an increase over the previous five-year grant award.

VICC is the only Comprehensive Cancer Center in Tennessee providing treatment for both adult and pediatric patients. There are only 10 centers in the Southeast that merit a Comprehensive designation.

The CCSG renewal effort is a rigorous process that includes a year of grant writing and preparation for a site visit carried out by a group of nationally recognized peer reviewers who delve into the Cancer Center’s programs for basic and translational science, clinical and population-based research, cancer education, community outreach and the center’s clinical growth and transfer of research to patient care.

“Scores in the ‘exceptional’ category from the NCI’s peer review team affirm VICC’s role as an elite cancer center in this nation, providing extraordinary care that is based on the molecular architecture of cancer cells,” said Jeff Balser, M.D., Ph.D., vice chancellor for Health Affairs and dean of the School of Medicine.

“VICC’s investigators are world leaders in unlocking the clues that underpin advancements in early diagnosis and treatment. Their work has propelled Vanderbilt to the vanguard of the nationwide effort to tailor the treatment of cancer to each and every person — truly personalized care,” Balser said.

The high marks are a reflection of the superior teamwork among VICC’s researchers, physicians and staff members, said C. Wright Pinson, MBA, M.D., deputy vice chancellor for Health Affairs and CEO of the Vanderbilt Health System.

“For more than 20 years, VICC’s leaders have demonstrated a passion for excellence in research, education and patient care that is remarkable,” Pinson said. “The renewal of this important grant is a reflection of the steadfast resolution of our faculty and staff to win the war against cancer.”

Preparation for the CCSG review requires tremendous work to document the scope of the cancer center’s programs and to demonstrate the value of those programs for patients and the wider community.

“We have a number of new program leaders and associate directors who, along with our seasoned scientific and clinical team, brought vibrant leadership to this process,” said Jennifer Pietenpol, Ph.D., Benjamin F. Byrd Jr. Professor of Oncology and director of VICC. “This is a cancer center that is leading nationally with our pioneering and high-impact discoveries and making a difference for patients every day.”

For patients, an NCI Comprehensive Cancer Center provides some of the most promising new therapies available and a clinical program that is focused on excellence.

Comprehensive Cancer Centers are also leaders in cancer prevention and community outreach and are committed to population-based research that sheds light on potential disparities in diagnosis and care.