UM Cancer Center Ranks in Top Tier Nationwide

University of Maryland Rounds features clinical and research updates from the University of Maryland School of Medicine and the University of Maryland Medical Center.

Intended for physicians, Rounds contains contact information to learn more about the clinical and research advances featured in each issue. It is printed three times a year and distributed monthly via email.

A slight name change signals a huge accomplishment for the University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center, which has become the 46th facility in the United States to be designated a comprehensive cancer center by the National Cancer Institute (NCI).

After a rigorous, months-long review process that included a site visit by 22 NCI cancer experts in late February, UMGCC gains another “c” in its name as its prowess at fighting the big C — cancer — is broadly recognized. Its new name, the University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center (UMGCCC), primarily reflects the institution’s achievements in researching and developing new cancer-fighting drugs and technologies, according to Director Kevin J. Cullen, MD.

“This tells everyone we are now one of the top cancer programs in the country and making contributions in science, patient care and education that are having a real impact on the fight against cancer in the U.S. and around the world,” says Dr. Cullen, who is also the Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Distinguished Professor of Oncology at University of Maryland School of Medicine. “We can point to new treatments invented here that are now the standard of care around the world. So we’re having an impact that’s being felt well beyond Baltimore and Maryland.”

Research, Training Programs Especially Impressive

Its stellar research — the main qualifier for the NCI designation — will receive a boost as a result of the honor, with its grant increasing 50 percent to $1.5 million. Additionally, the center will be eligible for other funding from the NCI, and other public and private sources. The new designation takes effect at the start of the cancer center’s next grant cycle on August 1.

New and improved cancer treatments and prevention strategies tackled at UMGCCC include the invention of the GammaPod™, a radiotherapy system under FDA review for treating breast cancer in a prone position to better protect the heart; the discovery of galeterone, an FDA fast-tracked compound to treat hormone-resistant prostate cancer; and the Population Science Program, which has uncovered risk and prevention implications for human papillomavirus-related cancers, among others.

Other key aspects of UMGCCC’s offerings leading to the unanimous NCI endorsement include its training and education initiatives.

“The NCI expects its comprehensive cancer centers to be strongly committed to training the next generation of cancer scientists and clinicians,” Dr. Cullen explains. “We now have a total of eight NCI-funded training programs, that range from giving middle school students in West Baltimore more experience in science, technology and math all the way to subspecialty training as cancer physicians for radiation oncologists, medical oncologists and surgeons.

“It’s this comprehensive suite of training programs, along with our research, that helped us earn this distinction,” he adds.

Standout Minority Participation

UMGCCC also stands out nationally because of its high minority participation in clinical trials, even when compared to other comprehensive cancer centers. Minorities comprise only about 2 percent of clinical trial patients across the United States, but here, minority patients represent more than 30 percent of clinical trial participants, which Dr. Cullen says makes sense in light of University of Maryland Medical Center’s core patient population.

“Our community in the areas around Baltimore has a significant representation of African Americans, and that community suffers disproportionately from cancer incidence and mortality,” he says. “One of the comments we received from the NCI is that we really do focus on the health issues facing people in our backyard, which is an important part of our mission.”

Predictably, the new NCI designation has generated a considerable amount of satisfaction among all who have worked toward this goal.

“Everyone is extraordinarily proud — not just the faculty, but the staff and everyone associated with the cancer center, from the board of directors to the donors,” Dr. Cullen says. “It really has been a collaborative effort over time. No one person owns credit for this — it’s the accumulated excellence of the entire team that has gotten us to this point.”

Appointments at UMGCCC can be scheduled by calling 410-328-7904.

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