The National Cancer Institute once again recognized UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center as one of the nation’s most elite cancer centers, awarding the center $17.5 million over five years and renewing the cancer center’s “comprehensive” designation. The designation is in recognition of the cancer center’s breadth and depth in cancer research, clinical care, cancer control and population sciences.
“The renewed NCI grant will support the cancer center’s innovative research, world-class care for patients, education, and community outreach and engagement programs,” said UC Davis Chancellor Gary May. “Treatment at NCI-designated cancer centers is associated with improved outcomes for many people with cancer and we are honored to receive this important vote of confidence from the NCI.”
UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center is one of only 51 centers receiving comprehensive designation nationally. The peer-review process of NCI designation is among the most rigorous in the nation, requiring evidence for collaboration and leadership as well as demonstration of high-quality programs in research, clinical care, education, and community outreach.
“On behalf of patients around the region, UC Davis Health is grateful and honored the National Cancer Institute has awarded the prestigious ‘comprehensive’ ranking to our cancer center and its efforts to reduce cancer across the region,” said UC Davis Health CEO David Lubarsky. “We are a critical cornerstone in the region’s fight against cancer and this award signifies we meet the highest standards of excellence in oncology research, diagnostics and treatment. We look forward to serving and coordinating Northern California’s cancer care for years to come.”
Outside of San Francisco, UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center is the only NCI-designated center from the Bay Area north to Portland and east to Salt Lake City, with more than 100,000 patients visiting annually.
The large region includes a highly diverse population with a considerable cancer burden in Northern California and the Central Valley. Some of the funding will be directed to programs designed to address cancer disparities. These ongoing programs aim to reduce the cancer burden in underserved communities that have for too long carried a heavier cancer burden.
A new series of education, training, and career development initiatives will expand the diversity of scientists at UC Davis pursuing a career in cancer research and clinical care.
Primo “Lucky” Lara Jr. is director of UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center and led the NCI grant renewal process.
“The rapid pace of discovery and improved cancer treatments at NCI-designated cancer centers such as ours are increasing cancer survivorship and improving the quality of life for patients in our region,” said Primo “Lucky” Lara Jr., UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center director, who also serves as principal investigator of the grant. “Equally important is the outreach we are doing to underserved communities as we seek to reduce the cancer burden in the region.”
The cancer center conducts more than 200 active clinical trials at any one time, including the region’s only Phase 1 trials. There are hundreds of scientists and staff engaged in this leading-edge research. Many trials are testing innovative new anti-cancer therapies or approaches developed by UC Davis laboratories and are only available at UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center.
“The renewal of the NCI award is a remarkable accomplishment and means UC Davis will continue to advance its groundbreaking work, collaborating between clinicians, researchers, educators, staff, and of course, our clinical trial participants, as we share a common goal—defeating cancer,” said Vice Chancellor of Research Prasant Mohapatra.
The award demonstrates the high-quality collaboration between dozens of disciplines across multiple departments at UC Davis.
“At UC Davis School of Medicine, we encourage team science and believe that innovation is inspired by diversity of thought. The NCI award will help expand our transdisciplinary collaborations to identify new cancer treatments,” said Dean Allison Brashear. “This year, the School of Medicine achieved record high research funding with $368 million in awards. Our collective efforts are not only improving the lives of our patients and community but are having an impact worldwide.”
UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center was first given NCI designation as a cancer center in 2002 with “comprehensive” status awarded in 2012. It has since grown its innovative cancer programs to include robotic surgery technology and theranostics—using the same imaging technology that spots cancer to kill tumors with precision. In 2019, the cancer center opened its EXPLORER Molecular Imaging Center, the first combined research and clinical total-body PET center in the world.
The cancer center is also one of the few in the country to partner with veterinary science, in this case the No. 1 veterinary school in the country, UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, to conduct a novel comparative oncology program that combines human and companion animal oncology. The research is considered crucial to advancing the understanding of tumor biology, speeding development of therapies, and giving hope to both people and their pets impacted by cancer.
Among its many other strengths, the cancer center is distinguished by its world-class research in cancer biology and DNA repair, immunotherapy, precision oncology, and its strong programs in new cancer drug development.
It has growing programs in supportive care for cancer patients. As the region’s only clinic for managing the long-term effects of treatment on childhood cancer survivors, the cancer center is also a leader in pediatric oncology. It recently launched the area’s only adolescent and young adult oncology program.
Recognized by U.S. News & World Report as one of the nation’s Best Hospitals in cancer care, UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center treats more than 20 types of cancer, including the most aggressive tumors such as pancreatic cancer. A $4 million Pancreatic Cancer Collective grant recently awarded to the cancer center will fund an early-stage clinical trial to test delivering radioactive isotopes directly into pancreatic cancer cells.