The Ohio State University is one of only 49 institutions designated by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) as a Comprehensive Cancer Center (OSUCCC), a prestigious designation that includes substantial NCI grant funding.

The designation, which must be competitively renewed every five years, follows a rigorous external peer-review process by cancer center experts from across the country.

“To receive the designation and grant funding, Ohio State and the OSUCCC must demonstrate that we have established an infrastructure to propel cancer research at the university and that we have made substantial impact,” says Peter Shields, MD, deputy director of the OSUCCC. “CCC grants are not entitlements, and it is not uncommon for a university to go on probation and even lose its grant because it has drifted from the mission of the NCI and has lost strategic vision or university support.”

Shields says many universities apply for a CCC designation and do not receive it, even with substantial research investments.

“Essentially,” he explains, “the NCI wants the university to support cancer research with vision, break down traditional university research silos, support the best science and show that we are making advances in the war against cancer. Our vision at the OSUCCC is to create a cancer-free world.”

After each of the OSUCCC’s last two site reviews, including the most recent one three years ago, the NCI rated the center as “exceptional,” the highest ranking. “This placed us among an elite few comprehensive cancer centers,” Shields says, noting that, to achieve this rating for a second consecutive time, the OSUCCC had to improve on the NCI’s Six Essential Characteristics:

  • Organizational Capabilities: Shields says reviewers recognized the organizational structure of the OSUCCC within Ohio State as a model for cancer centers to foster research across the university. They also found that the OSUCCC had improved on such hard metrics as external funding, clinical trial enrollment, team science through publications and grants, provision of shared resources, and impact of publications.

  • Transdisciplinary Collaboration and Coordination: “Scientific impact comes through team science,” Shields says. “We showed reviewers that our research—fueled by partnerships among scientists in 11 of the 15 colleges at Ohio State—propels drug discovery, drug treatments and FDA approval; influences national and international policies; develops methods for cancer prevention and control; and promotes national agendas for cancer research.”

  • Institutional Commitment: Shields says reviewers found hard evidence of Ohio State’s commitment to its cancer program in the 2014 opening of a transformational new James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute, in a reporting structure that fosters research across the university, and in funding assistance to implement a bold strategic plan.

  • Physical Space: Reviewers noted the presence of new clinical space and autonomy over sophisticated research laboratories.

  • Cancer Focus: The OSUCCC has about $54 million a year in NCI research grants, Shields says, noting that it also annually places over 3,000 patients and healthy volunteers on clinical trials.

  • Center Director: “The leadership we enjoyed under (former OSUCCC Director and James CEO) Michael A. Caligiuri, MD, was obvious,” Shields says. “He left a thriving cancer center for new hands to control as we continue moving forward.”

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