COLUMBUS, Ohio — The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center (OSUCCC) has again been ranked as “exceptional” and renewed as a National Cancer Institute (NCI)-Designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, the highest honor bestowed to a cancer program in the United States.
Designation from the NCI as a comprehensive cancer center is the most prestigious recognition a cancer program can receive, as it provides an external and expert validation of the quality of an institution’s cancer research.
NCI-designation is achieved through a competitive peer-review process that includes both written and in-person site evaluation of a cancer center’s research programs and infrastructure. There are three levels of recognition, with “comprehensive cancer center” status being reserved for the most robust programs. All NCI-designated cancer centers have been recognized for achieving a benchmark level of scientific leadership, resources, and depth/breadth of research initiatives.
Cancer centers are ranked on both a qualitative scale — with “exceptional” being the highest rating possible — as well as a numeric scale from 10 to 100, with lower scores being better. The OSUCCC was rated “exceptional” and received a perfect score of 10, the best score possible. The institution will receive a five-year renewal with an estimated $25 million Cancer Center Support Grant (CCSG) from the NCI.
Why NCI Designation Matters
The landscape of how cancer research is conducted and, subsequently, cancer care is delivered has changed radically in the past 10 years, shifting away from evaluating cancer by stage of disease and anatomic location and instead focusing more on the biologic and genetic makeup of an individual cancer.
“This has been a paradigm shift in the cancer field, and it has happened because of bold and innovative research. Ohio State is proud to be and remain at the forefront of that change. Our ultimate goal is to translate that research into improved care at the bedside — both in Ohio and throughout the county,” says Michael Caligiuri, MD, director of The OSUCCC, chief executive officer of the Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute and president-elect of the American Association for Cancer Research.
“In order to bring exceptional oncology care to patients — care that is precise, less toxic and achieves durable responses — you must be able to show the evidence that the treatment will have the right impact. Such evidence can only be developed through research. One cannot exist without the other.”
Under Caligiuri’s leadership, the OSUCCC is dually rooted in translational research aimed at moving discoveries from the lab to human application and population-based cancer research aimed improving public health by reducing the burden of cancer in our community and the world. Embedded in the largest university in the United States, the OSUCCC is comprised of five thematic research programs with more than 300 investigators from 12 different OSU colleges (ranging from arts and sciences to veterinary medicine) as well as cancer investigators from Nationwide Children’s Hospital and the freestanding James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute, the third largest cancer hospital in the United States.
“Our structure – and the research that is possible because of it – is very unique when you compare us to other leading cancer centers,” says Caligiuri “For example, nowhere in the United States do you have another NCI-designated comprehensive cancer center, freestanding cancer hospital and a college of agriculture all on the same campus. With these resources, we have been able to conduct innovative research like breeding a new type of tomato to produce a higher level of lycopene — a cancer prevention agent — then grow that crop on our farms and use the juice in cancer prevention clinical trials with patients at the James. Our ‘Crops to Clinic’ research program is something that the NCI reviewers found especially exciting.”
Attracting and Retaining Innovative Scientific Minds to Columbus
Caligiuri notes that NCI-designation and the robust research support that comes with it keeps -- and continues to attract --some of the brightest minds in oncology to Columbus from highly regarded institutions like Harvard, MD Anderson, Vanderbilt, University of North Carolina and Johns Hopkins University. In the past 10 years, the OSUCCC has recruited nearly a dozen cancer researchers including nationally recognized faculty such as Raphael Pollock, MD, PhD, (sarcoma), Julia White (breast radiation oncology), Roman Skoracki, MD, (plastic surgery), David Carbone, MD, PhD, (lung cancer), Maura Gillison, MD, (head and neck/HPV), Peter Shields, MD, (lung cancer/tobacco research), Richard Goldberg, MD, (colorectal cancer) and Paul Goodfellow, PhD (human genetics).
“Many of the senior lab and clinical scientists coming to the OSUCCC are bringing nationally recognized research programs that they feel can be leveraged and expanded with the talent and resources already here,” adds Caligiuri. “These nationally recognized senior faculty then serve as professional mentors for some of brightest, next generation junior investigators who want to come to Columbus, Ohio, to work in cancer research.”
National Thought Leader in Advancing Cancer Research
Since its last competitive NCI grant renewal in 2010, The OSUCCC has launched several innovative cancer initiatives representative of the impactful shift in thinking in the oncology field, including:
- ORIEN (Oncology Research Information Exchange Network): Founded in 2014 by the OSUCCC and Moffitt Cancer Center of Tampa, Florida, the Oncology Research Information Exchange Network (ORIEN) is a unique national alliance among 11 top cancer centers to integrate “big data” and data sharing for cancer research and care. ORIEN utilizes a single protocol, Total Cancer Care®, to create a collaborative, “rapid learning” environment among member cancer centers that allows for sharing of de-identified data to accelerate the development of targeted treatments. The collaboration also enables researchers and clinicians to more quickly match eligible patients to clinical trials and conduct larger, richer data analysis on specific cancers. More than 16,000 patients have consented to participate in the TCC protocol at Ohio State to date. More than 150,000 samples have been collected across the entire ORIEN partnership to date.
- Cancer Drug Development Institute: Created and funded by the OSUCCC and with the help of seven Ohio State colleges and the university’s technology commercialization office, the Drug Development Institute (DDI) helps expedite cancer drug development through strategic partnerships within the global pharmaceutical and research/development industries. The DDI has cataloged 30 novel anticancer agents developed at Ohio State and is currently working to advance the most promising into phase 1 human testing by seeking investigational new drug applications by 2020.
- Precision Cancer Medicine Program: This translational research program launched in 2012 with the goal of developing new testing strategies for patients with metastatic or advanced cancers who need alternative treatment options. Led by OSUCCC investigator Sameek Roychowdhury, MD, PhD, the goal of this program is to develop new clinical trials to treat patients based on the “molecular fingerprint” of each patient’s cancer. The program evaluates approximately 200 patients annually. In 2015 the team launched a freely accessible database (known as Cancer Driver Log or CanDL) that catalogs mutations known to drive cancer’s growth that can be targeted through existing therapy. The database gives clinicians and researchers a central source of information about cancer mutations to expedite drug development and cancer research.
- Center of Excellence in Regulatory Tobacco Science (CERTS): The OSUCCC is one of 14 centers nationwide funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to lead research devoted to the study of tobacco use patterns, industry marketing practices and public perceptions to put science behind the FDA’s regulation of tobacco. Combining Ohio State’s strength in cancer control and public health research, the tobacco research team aims to shed light on health problems arising from tobacco and decrease tobacco-related harm by studying individual disease risk and product use.
- Ohio Colorectal Cancer Prevention Initiative (OCCPI): The OSUCCC-James is leading a statewide study to screen all Ohio colorectal cancer patients for Lynch syndrome, a genetic mutation known to significantly increase a person’s risk for colorectal cancer and chances of having a cancer recurrence. Lynch syndrome can be detected through a simple test, developed by OSUCCC scientists. The study involves nearly 50 community hospitals and is based on a genetic discovery made by OSUCCC scientists. Patients accrued to the study agree to donate biologic samples for future colon cancer research and can participate in the study without leaving their hometown, at no cost to them or their community hospital. The ultimate goal of this statewide project is to demonstrate the feasibility and importance of large scale screening for Lynch syndrome as a national standard. It estimated that the project will generate nearly $40 million in health care saving for the state through early detection/prevention measures with individuals identified as higher risk.
“The OCCPI project is an excellent illustration of how the OSUCCC takes a multifaceted approach to reducing the burden of cancer in our community through an understanding of the genetic basis of most cancers,” says Caligiuri. “The OSUCCC provides a nurturing environment that fosters translating research discoveries directly into helping people and reducing health care costs.”
Changing the Landscape of Cancer Care
The OSUCCC continues to gain prominence as a hub of oncology research innovation. OSUCCC faculty have conducted and published research that has resulted in changes to the clinical practice of oncology. The following are illustrative of the caliber of research knowledge that exists here:
- Mandating Patient Navigation Services: Electra Paskett, PhD, and team performed a multi-institutional study that led the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer to mandate that accredited institutions implement patient navigation in 2015. This change was made to ensure continuity of care and reduce health disparities.
- Understanding HPV’s Role in Oral Cancer Treatment Outcomes: Maura Gillison, MD, PhD, and team discovered that HPV-associated oral cancers have a better long-term prognosis than other forms of oral cancer, resulting in a shift of clinical management for patients with HPV-positive oral cancer.
- Breakthrough Leukemia Treatment: John Byrd, MD, and his team were the first to characterize the drug ibrutinib’s activity in malignant B-cells and then demonstrated its pre-clinical and clinical efficacy in chronic lymphocytic leukemi (CLL) as well as the molecular mechanisms that result in drug resistance. These discoveries radically changed the clinical management of patients with CLL, shifting what was once thought as an “incurable” disease into a chronic condition. Byrd was recently named the 2015 recipient of the American Society of Hematology’s William Dameshek Prize for his contributions to transformative treatments in CLL, including a second drug called rituximab.
Nearly Four Decades as NCI-Designated Comprehensive Cancer Center
The OSUCCC –James was originally designated as comprehensive cancer center in 1976 and has held the highest possible ranking (exceptional) for the past 10 years. There are 45 cancer centers that hold the NCI comprehensive cancer center designation across the United States. The OSUCCC – James remains the only such center in central Ohio, with more than $85.9 million in total cancer research funding.
In December 2014, Ohio State opened a new 306-bed freestanding cancer hospital to serve the more than 10,000 cancer patients treated at The James annually, of which 24 percent participate in clinical research trials.
“We are honored and excited about the progress that has been made in the past five years, but there is still a long way to go. We won’t be satisfied until we’ve achieved our goal of creating a cancer-free world – and we will do that through research,” adds Caligiuri.
About the OSUCCC – James
The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute strives to create a cancer-free world by integrating scientific research with excellence in education and patient-centered care, a strategy that leads to better methods of prevention, detection and treatment. Ohio State is one of only 45 National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers and one of only four centers funded by the NCI to conduct both phase I and phase II clinical trials on novel anticancer drugs. As the cancer program’s 306-bed adult patient-care component, The James is one of the top cancer hospitals in the nation as ranked by U.S. News & World Report and has achieved Magnet designation, the highest honor an organization can receive for quality patient care and professional nursing practice. At 21 floors with more than 1.1 million square feet, The James is a transformational facility that fosters collaboration and integration of cancer research and clinical cancer care.
Amanda J. Harper
Director, Media Relations, OSUCCC – James
614-293-3737 (media main)