Stephenson Cancer Center Earns Prestigious National Cancer Institute Designation

National, state and local leaders joined the Stephenson Cancer Center at the University of Oklahoma today to celebrate the center’s designation as a National Cancer Institute (NCI) Cancer Center. With this award, the Stephenson Cancer Center joins an elite group of 70 NCI-Designated Cancer Centers nationwide.

“I am proud to stand with the Stephenson Cancer Center today as they announce NCI designation,” said NCI Director Dr. Norman E. Sharpless. “Designated cancer centers are recognized for their cutting-edge science and strong commitment to exceptional care of patients with cancer. They are at the core of the nation’s cancer research effort.”

NCI-Designated Cancer Centers represent only the top 2 percent of cancer centers in the United States. The Stephenson Cancer Center is the only NCI-Designated Cancer Center in Oklahoma. With more than 100 investigators working in the basic, clinical and population sciences, the Stephenson Cancer Center is Oklahoma’s leading cancer research organization. Nearly 90 percent of NCI-sponsored research funding that comes to Oklahoma is awarded to Stephenson investigators.

“Achieving this prestigious designation has been a top priority for the university for more than 15 years,” said OU President David L. Boren. “It highlights the Stephenson Cancer Center’s leading place among the top cancer centers in the nation, and it ensures that our citizens will have access to the highest standard of cancer care, right here in Oklahoma.” As a result of NCI designation, Stephenson Cancer Center patients will have access to new drugs, treatment options and clinical trials offered only at NCI-Designated Cancer Centers. The Stephenson Cancer Center also will be able to apply for federal research grants available only to NCI-Designated Cancer Centers, potentially bringing millions of dollars in additional funding to Oklahoma. The designation already includes a five-year, $10.1 million grant that will support research programs and infrastructure, recruitment of top academic researchers, and community outreach.

To earn NCI designation, the Stephenson Cancer Center had to demonstrate innovative and impactful research in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer, as well as successful community outreach across Oklahoma. The center’s activities were evaluated in a rigorous review process. Key accomplishments achieved during this process include:

• Attaining $16.1 million in annual research funding from the NCI in 2017

• Receiving $43.8 million in annual cancer research funding from all sponsors in 2017

• Publishing 650 scientific articles in peer-reviewed journals over the past three years

• Enrolling more than 2,500 patients in clinical trials to access promising new cancer

treatments over the past five years, reaching every county in Oklahoma and ranking number one in the National Clinical Trials Network (NCTN) across the country.

“It’s critically important that Oklahoma has an NCI-Designated Cancer Center as a resource to address the state’s high cancer incidence and mortality rates,” said U.S. Rep. Tom Cole (OK-04). “In addition, NCI designation will have a significant economic impact by opening the door to millions of dollars in grant funding, creating more research jobs, and enhancing opportunities for developing the biotechnology sector.”

In Oklahoma, one in two men and one in three women will develop cancer during their lifetime.

The state has the seventh highest cancer mortality rate in the nation. This year, the American Cancer Society estimates that 19,030 Oklahoma residents will be diagnosed with cancer and that 8,470 will die from their disease. The state’s large rural and American Indian populations have significantly higher cancer incidence and mortality rates than the national average.

NCI designation allows the Stephenson Cancer Center to communicate and collaborate on new advances in cancer care with other NCI-Designated Cancer Centers across the nation. Locally, the Stephenson Cancer Center will be able to increase community engagement, including volunteers, patient advisory groups, and education and intervention programs.

“This NCI designation recognizes the outstanding research and care that occurs at the Stephenson Cancer Center, and our deep commitment to making advances in the fight against cancer,” said Rainbolt Family Endowed Chair and Stephenson Cancer Center Director Dr. Robert Mannel. “In addition to the efforts of our cancer center faculty and staff, I want to thank the members of our federal delegation and our state, university and philanthropic leadership for supporting the Stephenson Cancer Center on its journey to NCI designation.”

As the major referral center for cancer within the state, this designation status also strengthens OU Health’s overall mission of leading health care in Oklahoma. “The Stephenson Cancer Center is an integral part of the OU Health health system," said Mike Samis, chair of the OU Health Board. "Earning NCI designation is a tremendous accomplishment and confirms the Stephenson Cancer Center as a national leader in cancer treatment and research. With this prestigious designation, patients will know they will receive the best care in the management of their disease, no matter how complex the diagnosis.”

Bringing NCI designation to Oklahoma has been a goal since 2001 when the Oklahoma State Legislature approved House Bill 1072 with bipartisan support, calling upon the university to create a comprehensive cancer center to provide leadership in cancer treatment, research and outreach, as well as to achieve national recognition as an NCI-Designated Cancer Center. Over the past decade more than $400 million has been committed to support the development of the Stephenson Cancer Center, making it the largest public-private biomedical partnership in state history.

Important stakeholders supporting the cancer center and its quest for NCI designation include the Oklahoma Legislature, the University Hospitals and Trust Authority, OU Health, the Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust, the state’s philanthropic community, the Chickasaw and Choctaw Nations, and the citizens of Oklahoma.

Special recognition goes to the Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust (TSET), an endowment created by voters in 2000 to improve the health of Oklahomans. TSET has committed more than $58 million to support cancer research at the Stephenson Cancer Center and more than $24 million to support tobacco research at the center’s Oklahoma Tobacco Research Center (OTRC).

Since 2010, the Stephenson Cancer Center has recruited more than 50 researchers to Oklahoma institutions, including the OU Health Sciences Center and OU Norman campuses, as well as the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation. These researchers have brought $26.6 million in out-of- state research grants and have attained an additional $93.4 million in total research funding since arriving in Oklahoma.

“In addition to research and treatment, this designation strengthens the educational mission of the OU Health Sciences Center,” said Dr. Jason Sanders, Senior Vice President and Provost for OUHSC. "In our quest for NCI designation, the OU Health Sciences Center has recruited world class faculty who will train future generations of oncology healthcare professionals and cancer researchers, building our expertise in translational research, clinical trials and basic science, as well as cancer prevention."

Clinical and research activities at the Stephenson Cancer Center support more than 1,000 employees, including physicians and clinic staff as well as research scientists and laboratory staff.

About the Stephenson Cancer Center

The Stephenson Cancer Center at the University of Oklahoma is the only National Cancer Institute- Designated Cancer Center in Oklahoma. Less than 2 percent of cancer centers nationally have earned this prestigious and highly competitive accreditation for outstanding patient care and research. The Stephenson Cancer Center is the largest oncology practice in the state, with more than 70 board-certified oncology physicians and a large team of advanced providers and supportive care specialists delivering the highest standard of patient-centered, multidisciplinary care for every type of cancer. The Stephenson Cancer Center currently ranks number one among all cancer centers in the nation for the number of patients participating in NCI-sponsored treatment trials, and it is one of only 30 lead centers in the NCI’s National Clinical Trials Network.

The Stephenson Cancer Center is Oklahoma’s leading cancer research organization, with more than 100 research scientists working to eliminate cancer through conducting innovative basic, clinical and population-based research. These researchers are working on 225 cancer research projects supported by $44 million in annual grant funding from the National Institutes of Health and other sponsors.

With a legislatively mandated mission to provide statewide leadership in addressing Oklahoma’s cancer burden, the Stephenson Cancer Center supports numerous outreach, education and screening programs in partnership with the Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust, the American Cancer Society, the Susan G. Komen Foundation and Oklahoma’s Tribal Nations among many other aligned organizations.