Case Comprehensive Cancer Center receives merit extension from National Cancer Institute

Collaboration across Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals continues at one of nation's elite cancer centers

CLEVELAND—The Case Comprehensive Cancer Center, Northeast Ohio's coordinated effort to combat cancer, has earned an additional $12 million from the National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the National Institutes of Health, as a two-year merit-based extension. The center is the first of two NCI-designated comprehensive cancer centers to be awarded this prestigious distinction, only available to top-tier centers in the country. 

The Center's current Cancer Center Support Grant was last renewed in 2017, when it received an “exceptional” rating—the highest possible—along with $27.9 million to continue lifesaving research, treatment and education from 2018-2023. The NCI approved the Cancer Center’s recent application to extend this funding based on its sustained extraordinary progress, stability and longevity. 

“This [extension] is a sign of NCI’s confidence in Case Comprehensive Cancer Center’s continued exceptional impact in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer, and in having a significant impact in reducing the burden of cancer in Ohio and beyond,” said Henry P. Ciolino, PhD, director of the Office of Cancer Centers at the NCI.

Ciolino said the NCI’s decision was based on the Center’s achievement as one of the country’s best-scoring cancer centers in its past two renewals¬—spanning 10 years—and its continued impact throughout the current period. He also commended the “stable and exceptional leadership” of center director Stan Gerson, MD and his senior leadership team.

“This is a fantastic achievement for the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center,” said Alan Diehl, PhD, deputy director and chief operating officer for the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center and the Leonard and Jean Skeggs Professor and chair of the Department of Biochemistry at the Case Western Reserve School of Medicine. “The merit extension reflects the leadership by Director Stan Gerson and an exceptional team, all of whom focus on providing the best cancer interventions available to our community. It is an honor to be part of such a dynamic partnership.”

Gerson, interim dean and the Asa and Patricia Shiverick-Jane Shiverick (Tripp) Professor of Hematological Oncology at the Case Western Reserve School of Medicine, has led the center since 2004. He has been continuously recognized for his leadership and for developing such initiatives as implementing a strategic-planning effort and enhanced transdisciplinary collaborations, dedicating efforts to address health disparities and community health, and recruiting talented senior leaders and researchers. 

“We are humbled to be one of the first centers to receive this new extension and hope a number of other exceptional centers will soon follow,” Gerson said. “Our consortium is quite robust and committed to the highest quality of cancer research and impact. This extension will allow us to seamlessly continue driving research focused on the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of cancer, directly impacting the patients and communities we serve.”

Among the center's recent achievements over the past year:

  • A retreat of program leaders with its Community Advisory Board coordinated by its Office of Community Outreach and Engagement. 
  • Implementation of a strong support program for diversity and equity.
  • Development of a new “disease ribbons” concept that helps link the breadth of disease-focused research across programs and into translational and clinical applications. 

The center is one of just 51 NCI-designated comprehensive cancer centers in the nation and one of a small handful to earn the exceptional rating. More than 400 physicians and scientists across the three partner institutions are brought together through six scientific research programs: Cancer Genomics & Epigenomics, Molecular Oncology, Immune Oncology, Developmental Therapeutics, Cancer Imaging, and Population & Cancer Prevention. 

The center is known as a research leader in basic, clinical and population sciences and for providing exemplary service to Northeast Ohio. In addition, the center has built a national reputation for research in colorectal cancers, leukemia and myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), brain, lung, kidney and prostate cancers.

Combined, Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals treat nearly 19,000 new cancer patients each year. Because these hospitals are part of an NCI-designated comprehensive cancer center, these patients have more opportunities to participate in a broad range of cutting-edge clinical trials; they also benefit from the concentration of expertise among the three organizations.

“We are grateful for this merit extension, which is a testament to the outstanding research and patient care delivered by Cleveland Clinic Taussig Cancer Institute and Case Comprehensive Cancer Center,” said Jame Abraham, MD, deputy director for Cleveland Clinic, Case Comprehensive Cancer Center, acting chair of the Cleveland Clinic Taussig Cancer Institute and a professor at Case Western Reserve School of Medicine. “This support by the National Cancer Institute will allow us to continue focusing on exploring the intricacies of cancer and discovering new treatment options for our patients.” 

“University Hospitals celebrates the well-deserved merit extension granted by the National Cancer Institute to the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center,” said Theodoros N. Teknos, MD, deputy director for University Hospitals for the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center, president and scientific director of University Hospitals Seidman Cancer Center, and a professor of otolaryngology at Case Western Reserve’s School of Medicine. “This recognition serves as validation that Cleveland's major research institutions are at the forefront of discoveries in cancer prevention, early detection and cure.”

The center is also lauded for its training, education and career-development programs for cancer trainees, from high school through junior faculty. In addition, it is home to the NCI-supported Paul Calabresi Clinical Oncology Scholar Training to support clinical investigators across the institutions, one of the longest-running awards of this type in the country.

Since its founding in 1987 by Case Western Reserve and University Hospitals, the center has held an NCI designation and attained "comprehensive" status in 1998. Cleveland Clinic formally joined the consortium in 2003.