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Week of November 5, 2012

U-M cancer center gets $28.4 million grant from NCI

The National Cancer Institute has awarded the Comprehensive Cancer Center a grant worth $28.4 million over five years. At the same time, the center’s designation as a “comprehensive cancer center” was renewed.

The grant is a renewal of the center’s core support grant, provided as part of the NCI’s cancer centers program. U-M has received NCI funding for its cancer center since 1988. The new grant will fund the center through 2017.

“With this grant and the resources of the University of Michigan, including new opportunities at the North Campus Research Complex, our cancer center is poised to bring great advances to cancer treatment and offer new opportunities for our patients,” says Dr. Max S. Wicha, director of the Comprehensive Cancer Center and Distinguished Professor of Oncology.

The funding will allow ongoing research in 13 basic, clinical and prevention/control programs, including in cancer stem cells, experimental therapeutics and cancer genetics. It also provides support for 18 core shared research services, including the center’s clinical trials operations. NCI reviewers noted particular strengths in prostate cancer, breast cancer and cancer stem cell biology.

The center submitted a 1,937-page grant renewal to the NCI and underwent a rigorous two-day site visit by reviewers in fall 2011. Overall, U-M received an “outstanding” rating. Reviewers commented that the cancer center has had “a significant impact not only on cancer research but increasingly on the burden of cancer.”

“The (University of Michigan) is a strong cancer center that has made, and should continue to make, major contributions to cancer research,” the reviewers noted.

To earn the designation of “comprehensive cancer center,” an institution must participate in basic, clinical, and prevention and control research, with strong interactions among those areas. A center also must provide public information, education and outreach programs. U-M is one of two comprehensive cancer centers in Michigan and one of 41 across the country.

The review committee approved a 63 percent increase in funding over the prior grant, which was renewed in 2006. But due to federal budget cuts and a shrinking pool of money at the National Institutes of Health, funding remained essentially flat, despite an outstanding score from the NCI reviewers.

“Federal funding has allowed us to make significant progress against cancer. But this is still a devastating disease with a profound physical, emotional and financial impact on patients and their loved ones. Continued federal support is crucial to advancing our laboratory discoveries and mounting the innovative clinical trials needed to test the most promising new treatments and bring more effective options to our patients,” Wicha says.

“Funding from the National Institutes of Health is flat across the board, and it’s becoming harder for investigators to get grants,” Wicha adds. “Despite that, our cancer center has done extremely well and continues to be one of the top-funded programs in the country.”

U-M received the most NCI funding in the nation among academic medical centers. In 2011, the cancer center had a total of $79 million in NCI grants.

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Posted by Todd McKinney | Nov 15, 2012
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