Recognition as "Comprehensive Cancer Center"
To earn the designation "Comprehensive Cancer Center," from the National Cancer Institute, a cancer center must undergo extensive peer review and meet rigorous national standards. They must make fundamental contributions to reducing the impact of cancer, and serve as local and national resources for the education and training of tomorrow's medical and scientific cancer experts.
Johns Hopkins was among the first National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer centers in the nation, and is still the only one in Maryland. This prestigious designation, awarded to only 36 institutions nationwide, means that Hopkins is recognized for outstanding cancer research and treatment programs.
Furthermore, Hopkins has long been a leader in cancer research. It currently ranks third in funding from the National Cancer Institute.
The 1971 National Cancer Act
The idea for the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to recognize comprehensive cancer centers was established by the 1971 National Cancer Act.
On December 23, l971, President Richard M. Nixon signed into law bold legislation that mobilized the country's resources to fight cancer. The National Cancer Act infused enough dollars and authority into the National Cancer Institute to make the "conquest of cancer a national crusade."
The Act had its roots in a 1970 Senate resolution calling for a study of the status of cancer research. Subsequently, the Senate authorized a group of scientists and cancer advocates to draft a legislative plan for a broad-reaching national program for the "conquest of cancer." The report of the Yarborough Commission, named after Texas Senator Ralph W. Yarborough who spearheaded the effort, became the blueprint for the National Cancer Act.
The legislators' hope was that the creation of a National Cancer Program, overseen by a small number of experts and with direct access to the president of the United States, would greatly accelerate the pace of cancer research and its translation into treatment.
The Act authorized NCI to carry out a National Cancer Program and gave the director of NCI broad authority to create new cancer centers, award contracts for research, and establish an international cancer research data bank that collects, catalogues, stores, and disseminates results of cancer research undertaken in any country. This included recognizing the most outstanding cancer programs in the country through designation as "comprehensive cancer centers."
The built-in flexibility of the Act has also allowed NCI to explore new research directions and areas of greatest opportunity. Adjustments in the Act have been made over the years, but the major authorities have remained unchanged. Even though the biology of the more than 100 types of cancers is far more complex than imagined in l971, and effective treatments for many cancers have remained elusive, the original vision of the legislators has been largely realized.
The National Cancer Act, and the 25 years of public investment in medical research that followed, produced an extraordinary record of scientific discovery and spawned a nationwide network of cancer centers, trained cancer experts, and developed programs in community outreach and cancer prevention.
Here at Hopkins
The Hopkins Oncology Center was one of the first National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer centers established under the National Cancer Act. This designation means that the center has active programs in basic, clinical, and translational research, education, community outreach and prevention and control. It has won further recognition as one of the first "Centers of Excellence."
In recent years, the revolution in molecular medicine has led the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to seek projects that emphasize interdisciplinary research into specific cancers. In 1992, the NCI established the Specialized Programs of Research Excellence (SPORE) to speed communication between basic and clinical science in order to move basic research findings from the laboratory to applied settings more quickly.
The ultimate goal of the SPORE program, according to the NCI, is to promote "novel ideas that have the potential to reduce cancer incidence and mortality, improve survival, and to improve the quality of life." Hopkins is the only cancer center in the nation to receive three of the highly competitive SPORE grants.
"What we've really accomplished in the last 25 years is a vastly increased understanding of the biology of cancer," Abeloff said. "And this means that the next 25 years are going to be even more exciting."
Anticipating the revolution in cancer care and treatment about to come, the Hopkins Oncology Center has recently completed the construction of two new buildings devoted to research and patient care.
The Comprehensive Cancer Center in the new Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Building is a state-of-the-art cancer treatment center that includes complete outpatient services with 24 private exam rooms, 11 consultation rooms, pathology, radiology and pharmacy services, radiation oncology, 16 operating suites, a 20-bed intensive care unit, a same day surgical center, as well as two floors of inpatient surgical, hematologic and medical oncology beds.
Across the street on the northwest corner of Broadway and Orleans, the Bunting Blaustein Cancer Research Building contains 10 stories of office space at each end, with five stories of laboratories between them. It includes scientific programs in cancer biology, molecular genetics, molecular virology, immunology and hematopoiesis, pharmacology and experimental therapeutics, cancer prevention and control, and research in adult and pediatric solid tumors and hematologic malignancies.
The Bunting Blaustein Building brings together cancer researchers that have been scattered in laboratories throughout the Hopkins East Baltimore campus and replaces outdated laboratories constructed more than 20 years ago when the Oncology Center first opened its doors.
"For some time we've recognized the need for more and better research facilities, and the need to improve our ability to provide care for our patients," Abeloff said. "The construction of these two buildings is a sign of confidence in the future."
"These two buildings represent an all-encompassing approach by our physicians and our scientists to alter the course of cancer. Discoveries in the laboratory will be carried out in the clinic through early diagnosis and better therapies," said Martin D. Abeloff, M.D., Eli Kennerly Marshall Professor of Oncology and Director of the Johns Hopkins Comprehensive Cancer Center.
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