OU Health Stephenson Cancer Center Achieves Renewal of NCI Designation

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OU Health Stephenson Cancer Center Achieves Renewal of NCI Designation

OU Health Stephenson Cancer Center at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences has achieved renewal of its status as a National Cancer Institute-Designated Cancer Center. The accomplishment marks a milestone in the cancer center’s continued growth as a statewide cancer network that provides leadership in patient care, research, education and community outreach.

Stephenson Cancer Center is the only NCI-Designated Cancer Center in Oklahoma and one of only 72 such centers nationwide, representing the top 2% of cancer centers in the United States. NCI designation, which must be renewed every five years in a rigorous review process, acknowledges Stephenson Cancer Center’s ongoing excellence in all areas of its mission.

“Achieving renewal of our NCI designation is a tremendous accomplishment for Stephenson Cancer Center and for our advancements in research at OU,” said OU President Joseph Harroz Jr. “It confirms our commitment as a research-intense university to conduct research that will lead to new treatment breakthroughs. This renewal is only the beginning. Stephenson Cancer Center is focused on bringing NCI-level care to all Oklahomans and helping to eliminate the burden of cancer in our state.”

Stephenson Cancer Center opened in 2011 and achieved NCI designation for the first time in 2018. Since then, Stephenson has grown significantly, attracting more than 100 highly skilled clinicians and researchers in the past decade alone and increasing research funding within the University of Oklahoma to $65 million annually. The cancer center is the largest and most comprehensive oncology practice in Oklahoma and commits significant resources to innovative research that drives new discoveries.

Nearly all NCI-designated cancer centers are a part of an academic healthcare system. Stephenson Cancer Center is a major clinical component of OU Health, the state’s only comprehensive academic healthcare system. The NCI designation is the gold standard for oncology research, placing the University of Oklahoma in an elite circle of oncology research centers while providing Oklahomans with some of the most innovative and leading-edge cancer therapies available in the country.

“As Oklahoma’s academic referral center, OU Health is committed to improving lives through healing and discovery by offering research-driven clinical care. No Oklahoman should have to leave the state for the care they need, and this NCI renewal affirms OU Health’s commitment to providing complex care here at home,” said OU Health President and CEO Richard P. Lofgren, M.D., MPH. “Stephenson is a key component of our academic healthcare system and plays an invaluable role in the health and well-being of Oklahomans.”

NCI designation is the highest federal rating a cancer center can achieve. Studies show that patients who receive care at an NCI-Designated Cancer Center can improve their survival rates by up to 25%. In Oklahoma, where 1 in 2 men and 1 in 3 women receive a cancer diagnosis during their lifetimes, Stephenson provides hope and healing to patients and their families.

Stephenson Cancer Center’s journey to NCI designation began in 2001, when the Oklahoma state Legislature passed bipartisan legislation mandating the creation of a statewide cancer network. Stephenson Cancer Center cares for patients through a multidisciplinary care model in which disease-site experts in surgery, medical oncology, radiation, pathology and other areas meet together to create individualized treatment plans. Stephenson also offers more clinical trials than any other center in Oklahoma, including the state’s only Phase I clinical trials program, which gives patients access to the newest early-stage investigational drugs. One in 5 patients at Stephenson is enrolled in a clinical trial.

“As an NCI-Designated Cancer Center, we have the resources to provide world-class treatments to our patients while offering the necessary support to providers, patients and our community to reduce the burden of cancer,” said Stephenson Cancer Center Director Robert Mannel, M.D. “Because research underscores the care we provide, our clinicians and researchers often collaborate to seek answers to complex questions. Our emphasis on research creates an atmosphere where treatments are constantly being improved for the benefit of our patients.”

“I am proud that the Stephenson Cancer Center has once again achieved its status as a National Cancer Institute-Designated Cancer Center. The research at this elite oncology facility, which is the only NCI-designated facility in the state, will drive new innovative discoveries and provide the state with the best cutting-edge cancer therapies in the country,” said U.S. Rep. Stephanie Bice (OK-5). “The work being done at Stephenson Cancer Center will ultimately result in better long-term survival rates and give more opportunities for our community. I will continue to support practices that protect the health and well-being of all Oklahomans.”

“I am delighted to congratulate Stephenson Cancer Center for achieving renewal of its status as a National Cancer Institute-Designated Cancer Center,” said U.S. Rep. Tom Cole (OK-04). “Oklahoma sadly has a high burden of cancer, which certainly called for a center like this. I was proud to serve as one of the many figures in getting this important center up and running to bring best-in-class cancer care to our state and then to lead the state’s congressional delegation in a letter to the National Cancer Institute voicing support for renewal last May. I am proud to see the life-saving work they have done for patients and their drive to find cures through research. I look forward to continuing to work with OU and state partners, as well as the federal government, to ensure its mission can be continued far into the future.”

The Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust (TSET) continues to play a crucial role in Stephenson Cancer Center’s research mission. TSET’s grants, funded through the state’s Master Settlement Agreement with the tobacco industry, support Phase I clinical trials, the recruitment of scientists, research grants to Oklahoma scientists, cancer screenings, and behavioral and tobacco cessation research in the state.

“Stephenson Cancer Center is life-changing for Oklahomans. We cannot underestimate the significance of having an elite cancer center in our own state,” said Julie Bisbee, executive director of TSET. “Patients who receive care at an NCI-designated center have better outcomes. Cutting-edge clinical trials like the ones at the TSET Phase I Program can provide hope in the most difficult cases. It’s important to remember that, for every statistic quoted, there is a patient, and a family, whose lives are improved because of the care they receive.”