INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center has been recognized again as a premier cancer center by the National Cancer Institute following an in-depth peer review.
The NCI renewed the IU Simon Cancer Center’s Cancer Center Support Grant and the prestigious designation following a multi-step competitive process. Overall, the NCI rated the cancer center’s research activities as “excellent” and awarded it a five-year, $7.8 million support grant — an increase of 20 percent from the previous award in 2008.
The grant is an important source of funding for the cancer center’s shared facilities that are available to researchers. Those facilities provide researchers with access to the highest quality of equipment and technology.
The NCI designation places the IU Simon Cancer Center in an elite group of 68 cancer centers across the country that focus on the rapid translation of research discoveries to directly benefit people with cancer. It is the only NCI-designated cancer center in Indiana that provides patient care.
Patients benefit from the scientific discoveries made by researchers at the IU Simon Cancer Center. Cancer center physicians treat adult patients at the IU Health Simon Cancer Center, Eskenazi Health and the Richard L. Roudebush VA Medical Center, and pediatric patients are treated at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health, all of which are on the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis campus.
“We are especially honored to be renewed with this very prized designation again,” said Patrick J. Loehrer, M.D., director of the IU Simon Cancer Center. “To receive a funding increase in the current funding climate is icing on the cake.
“The members of the IU Simon Cancer Center realize we have much more to do, but each day brings promise of a new research discovery. Research is at the heart of making progress against cancer, enabling us to find better ways to prevent, detect and treat the disease. The nearly 200 researchers at the IU Simon Cancer Center have dedicated themselves to moving impactful research from the labs to the bedside.”
Both the grant and designation recognize that the IU Simon Cancer Center’s research programs meet the NCI’s rigorous criteria for world-class, state-of-the-art programs in multidisciplinary cancer research. Reviewers, composed of NCI officials and others from NCI-designated cancer centers, evaluated the cancer center’s five research programs. The goals of those programs range from understanding the molecular changes that cause cancer to the development of targeted therapies to prevent and treat cancer. Members of those research programs are on the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, IU Bloomington, IU South Bend and Notre Dame campuses.
The NCI reviewers noted the IU Simon Cancer Center “has made truly substantial progress over the current funding period.” They added: “The reorganized leadership and recruitment of new leaders in combination with outstanding facilities, institutional commitment, and leadership should continue to advance the mission of the cancer center in the years ahead.”
The IU Simon Cancer Center first received the NCI designation in 1999, just seven years after its founding. It has held this distinction since then.
Grant funding awarded to IU cancer researchers and membership has continued to grow since 1999. External funding has grown from $29.4 million in 1999 to $61 million today, while membership of the cancer center has grown from 150 members — researchers and physicians — in 1999 to nearly 200 current members.
In September 2013, as part of the competitive renewal process, the IU Simon Cancer Center submitted a 1,011-page Cancer Center Support Grant application to the NCI. After that, NCI officials and others from NCI-designated cancer centers reviewed the application, and 24 reviewers visited campus in February 2014.
Since its founding, IU Simon Cancer Center researchers have made protocol-defining discoveries that have changed the way doctors treat testicular cancer, breast cancer, gastrointestinal cancer, genitourinary cancer, leukemia, multiple myeloma, thymoma and thymic carcinomas, and thoracic cancer.
1992: The National Cancer Institute awarded a planning grant to the IU School of Medicine for a cancer center, establishing the Indiana University Cancer Center under the direction of Stephen Williams, M.D.
1999: IU Cancer Center earned its first NCI designation.
2004: Designation renewed.
2006: The cancer center is renamed the Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center.
2008: Designation renewed.
2009: Patrick Loehrer Sr., M.D., is named the cancer center’s second director following the death of Dr. Williams.