In 2016 the University of Colorado Cancer Center was honored to renew its National Cancer Institute (NCI) Cancer Center Support Grant (CCSG) as Colorado’s only NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center. Part of this process included turning a critical eye inward at all aspects of the research programs that make up the Center. After review by a special NCI Site Visit team, the Cancer Center received its best score ever, characterized as “excellent to outstanding.” On January 25, 2017 Cancer Center administration and program leaders met with the Center’s External Advisory Board to celebrate the Center’s successful renewal while exploring changes that will help continue the Center’s growth and rise in national recognition and prominence.
“There’s an old philosophical debate about whether the brain can ever truly understand itself, and I think this is true of any institution: When you look at it from the inside, you can’t help but look through glasses that are colored by your own point of view. We are extremely grateful to our External Advisory Board for visiting us every year and helping us see ourselves clearly,” says Dan Theodorescu, MD, PhD, director of the CU Cancer Center.
Theodorescu started the meeting, presented in the round at the Fulginiti Pavilion’s Gossard Forum, by congratulating faculty for the Center’s recent CCSG renewal and welcoming new leadership, including the following changes:
- James DeGregori, PhD, will take over for Andrew Thorburn, PhD, as the deputy director of the CU Cancer Center. DeGregori is a professor of biochemistry and molecular genetics and holds the Courtenay C. and Lucy Patten Davis Endowed Chair in Lung Cancer Research. He had been associate director for basic research and oversaw multiple shared resources for the Cancer Center.
- Heide Ford, PhD, assumes the role of associate director for basic research vacated by DeGregori. Ford is a professor of pharmacology whose work focuses on the parallels between normal development and tumor progression, and how cancer cells utilize developmental programs to mediate metastatic spread.
- Karyn Goodman, MD, MS, becomes associate director for clinical research. Goodman is a professor of radiation oncology whose work explores the development of therapeutic protocols to optimally combine systemic therapies with radiotherapy and individualize care for patients with gastrointestinal cancers.
After Theodorescu’s overview, the Cancer Center team was gratified to receive commendations from the EAB on the Center’s strategic plan as well as the successful site visit by what some EAB members characterized as an especially rigorous evaluation committee. Theodorescu also addressed certain Site Visit reviewers’ recommendations, including unveiling CU Cancer Center’s plan to refine membership criteria to ensure that Center members are truly focused in their research on cancer, from basic science to translational medicine, to clinical care, to supportive and survivorship issues.
“We have taken tremendous strides since our first NCI designation in 1985 and now that our center is among the country’s elite institutions, we see no reason to rest. We continue the process of optimizing our Center toward the goals of excellent fundamental research, excellent prevention, and excellent care for cancer patients across the state and the country,” Theodorescu says.
Since the last CCSG review in 2011 and under the leadership of Theodorescu, the CU Cancer Center has joined the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN), an alliance of 27 leading cancer centers working to shape the standards of cancer care. The Center also joined the Oncology Research Information Exchange Network (ORIEN), a collaboration with 15 member institutions to magnify the power of clinical trials by sharing genetic and patient outcomes data. Partner institutions including University of Colorado Hospital, Children’s Hospital Colorado and the Colorado State University Flint Animal Cancer Center are consistently in the top tier of U.S. News & World Report rankings. In 2016, Colorado State Governor, John Hickenlooper, signed a bill directly funding cancer research in the state for the first time.
“It’s an exciting time for CU Cancer Center, an exciting time for cancer research as a whole. It’s always an honor to have our hard work recognized and also good to explore how we can be even better,” says Mark Kochevar, associate director for administration and finance of CU Cancer Center.
With recommendations from the External Advisory Board and oversight from the National Cancer Institute, the University of Colorado Cancer Center is proud to continue its pursuit of excellence and national leadership in all aspects of cancer research and care.