National Cancer Institute recognizes achievements with renewed funding
March 1, 2021
Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center (VICC) received an overall “exceptional” score for its research impact and excellence in patient care. This achievement merits renewed funding from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and places it once again in a top group of NCI Comprehensive Cancer Centers.
The renewal of the NCI Cancer Center Support Grant (CCSG) provides Vanderbilt-Ingram more than $36 million over the next five years to advance research discoveries, to sustain the work of its scientific leadership and administration, and to maintain its infrastructure, including shared resources for cancer investigators. The grant renewal represents an increase in funding over the previous five-year grant award with new support for research education, training, career development, and community outreach and engagement.
To receive renewed funding, NCI-designated Cancer Centers must undergo a rigorous evaluation process conducted by nationally recognized peer reviewers. Preparations include a year of data collection and grant writing followed by verbal presentations and questioning from reviewers during the site visit. It’s a highly competitive process. The reviewers evaluate cancer centers for basic and translational science programs, clinical and population-based research, cancer education, community outreach, and the center’s clinical growth and translation of research to patient care.
“In an increasingly competitive environment for funding the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center continues to shine thanks to talented and dedicated professionals who provide our patients the very latest discoveries and clinical care. I want to offer my sincere congratulations to everyone involved in the grant renewal process for this important achievement,” said Jeff Balser, MD, PhD, President and CEO of Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) and Dean of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.
This is the fifth renewal of Vanderbilt-Ingram as an NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers, three with Jennifer Pietenpol, PhD, as director. It is the only Comprehensive Cancer Center in Tennessee providing treatment for adult and pediatric patients, and 1 of only 51 in the country to earn this highest distinction from the NCI. Vanderbilt-Ingram ranks in the top 10 matrix cancer centers nationwide for cancer research grant support, receiving $141 million in annual cancer-related funding.
“The Cancer Center’s comprehensive services are a linchpin of our health system’s clinical offerings, providing hope for patients of all ages. The renewal of this grant requires substantial preparation and I want to express my appreciation to the entire VICC team for this outstanding result,” said C. Wright Pinson, MBA, MD, Deputy CEO and Chief Health System Officer.
Preparations for the CCSG renewal process involve people at Vanderbilt-Ingram in all departments at all levels. However, the work to achieve the accomplishments chronicled in the application occurs continuously, said Pietenpol, director of Vanderbilt-Ingram and Executive Vice President for Research at VUMC.
“Hundreds of people made this CCSG renewal possible, and I am so appreciative of their hard work. I am proud to work alongside highly talented and dedicated deputy directors, program leaders, associate directors, clinical teams and researchers dedicated to lessening the cancer burden. The culture of collaboration at Vanderbilt-Ingram, combined with research excellence and high-quality patient care, are the distinctive capabilities with which we lead,” said Pietenpol, the B.F. Byrd Jr. Professor of Oncology and holder of the Brock Family Directorship in Career Development.
Currently, 283 faculty members advance Vanderbilt-Ingram’s research and clinical initiatives. Theresa Sberna, MPH, chief business officer for Vanderbilt-Ingram and deputy director for Strategy and Analytics, and Julie Schaum, MS, director for Research Administration, lead essential administrative and operational functions for the cancer research enterprise and led the development of systems to orchestrate the collection and presentation of data for the renewal application and site visit.
“Preparations for a Cancer Center Support Grant renewal are a tremendous effort. So many people, including administrative and support staff and faculty, embraced this challenge and worked tirelessly to make this renewal successful. I want to thank and congratulate everyone involved for achieving this ‘exceptional’ score,” said Sberna.
For patients, an NCI Comprehensive Care Center provides promising new therapies, including clinical trials and a care program focused on excellence. Vanderbilt- Ingram was among the first cancer centers to offer new immunotherapies and targeted therapies, and during the past five years, has led or partnered in 31 FDA-registration clinical trials.
Working in partnership with Meharry Medical College, Tennessee State University, and Federally Qualified Health Centers, Vanderbilt-Ingram continues to identify and address racial disparities in cancer incidence and care. It is among the few centers in the United States with multiple NCI-designated Specialized Programs of Research Excellence (SPORE), including breast and gastrointestinal cancers.