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UM-CCC Receives Multi-Million Dollar Grant and Outstanding NCI Rating

originally posted August 16, 2001

ANN ARBOR, Mich. - The University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center has won a $26 million, five-year grant and an 'outstanding' rating from the National Cancer Institute, paving the way for increased research, care, prevention and education in the fight against cancer.

The grant, awarded this week to support existing and new research programs and infrastructure, is 62 percent larger than the last five-year grant, won in 1996. It comes in addition to another $21 million in individual NCI research funding grants won by U-M Health System cancer investigators, a total that has increased 76 percent in the past five years.

Altogether, the support moves the University to ninth overall and third among public institutions in total NCI funding, and confirms its place among the nation's top cancer centers.

"We're proud that our efforts to build a wide array of programs, with strengths in many areas of cancer, are being supported so enthusiastically by NCI, and we look forward to building upon our base with this renewed support," says Max Wicha, M.D., the center's director and Distinguished Professor of Oncology.

"This tremendous increase in our support comes at a time when humankind's knowledge about cancer is exploding," Wicha continues. "With this grant, our outstanding collection of faculty, staff, resources and facilities will be more able than ever to wage war on cancer for individual patients here and around the world."

The U-M CCC has 297 faculty "members", 14 basic, clinical and prevention research programs, and 13 shared facilities, all supported by the NCI grant. The new funding will enable the U-M to establish new operations, including facilities for DNA-based molecular oncology and immune monitoring, and new research programs in connective tissue oncology and head & neck cancer.

The grant will also help new research results make the leap from the laboratory to the clinic more quickly, giving U-M patients access to even more forefront therapies. And, it will provide seed money for faculty to pursue new ideas in the crucial first phase of research.

That seed money, whether from the NCI or from private donors, often leads to research results that can help the researcher win far more in conventional grants. For every dollar in seed money, Wicha notes, a project can progress far enough to merit $20 in additional future funding.

The same leveraged effect is true of the center's shared facilities, which allow many researchers to use the same equipment and staff support, reducing redundancy and making advanced options available sooner.

Another goal with the new grant is to enable the U-M to attract and keep more top cancer researchers and clinicians, in a competitive employment environment with other top institutions.

At the same time, the U-M is planning to bring its cancer expertise to more locations and patients than ever before, through new satellite outpatient locations and partnerships with other hospitals in the metro Detroit region.

The $26 million core grant results from an intensive review process by the NCI, based on its scrutiny of a 1,500-page summary of the Cancer Center's existing and proposed research programs and cores, and a rigorous two-day site visit by a team of NCI specialists.

Wicha stresses the objectivity of the process, which is performed at all cancer centers nationwide that seek to achieve or maintain NCI status as basic, clinical or comprehensive cancer centers. The Cancer Center received an "outstanding" rating - the highest category given by the NCI.

The U-M CCC is one of only 41 centers nationwide that have "comprehensive" NCI status, which is awarded only to those centers with extensive and interactive clinical and laboratory research; participation in NCI high-priority clinical studies of new cancer therapies; significant cancer prevention and control activities; patient education programs; community service and outreach activities; and educational and training programs for health professionals.

Such a breadth of research, patient care and service, much of it based in the same building, has been built at the U-M by the unique requirements placed on faculty, facilities and programs.

All faculty must participate in at least two research, patient care or prevention initiatives, and cooperation across disciplinary boundaries is actively encouraged. Interaction among basic and clinical programs is also a priority, allowing "translational" research that applies new knowledge to patient care quickly.

Overall, Wicha says, the grant will help not only the U-M's patients, but people worldwide. "The goal is to optimize the use of the treatments we have now, and ultimately to make today's treatments obsolete."


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