Children's Cancer Center recognized by NCI

August 18, 2010

The Children’s Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders (CCBD) has attained National Cancer Institute (NCI) recognition as part of the designation by the NCI of the Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center at UT Southwestern Medical Center. The NCI designation is an elite one, held by only the top-tier cancer centers in the country, which makes Children’s the only NCI-designated pediatric cancer program in North Texas. UT Southwestern is the academic medical center with which Children’s Medical Center is affiliated and provides medical staff to the not-for-profit pediatric hospital and specifically to the CCBD.

The Harold C. Simmons Cancer Center, established in 1988, is the first and only center in North Texas to attain this prestigious status, which the NCI bestows upon the nation’s top cancer centers in recognition of innovative research and excellence in patient care. There are now 66 such centers in the U.S.; other designated centers in Texas are in Houston and San Antonio.

The NCI is the world’s largest organization solely dedicated to cancer research. It also is part of the National Institutes of Health, the primary federal agency responsible for conducting and supporting medical research. Through basic and clinical biomedical research and training, the NCI leads a national effort to eliminate suffering and death due to cancer.

"With designation by the NCI, CCBD and the Simmons Cancer Center will now be able to provide cancer patients access to the newest, most promising cancer treatments and laboratory findings only available through the network of these NCI centers," said Dr. George Buchanan, medical director of the CCBD. "Patients will have more opportunities to take part in clinical trials that test new treatments, and they are able to receive individualized care much closer to home." Dr. Buchanan is the director of the Barrett Family Center for Pediatric Oncology at UT Southwestern, and holds the Children’s Cancer Fund Distinguished Chair in Pediatric Oncology and Hematology at UT Southwestern.

As an NCI-designated center, the Simmons Cancer Center will receive a $7.5 million support grant over the next five years, which complements the $24.4 million in NCI grants that are currently active at UT Southwestern.

Dr. James K.V. Willson, director of the Simmons Cancer Center and associate dean for oncology programs at UT Southwestern, joined UT Southwestern in 2004 and began the process for securing NCI designation. "Over the past five years UT Southwestern has made great strides in bringing together all the elements that collectively comprise an outstanding cancer center," Dr. Willson said. "NCI designation is the gold standard for elite cancer programs."

Under Dr. Willson’s leadership, the center has built upon the success and reputation of several nationally recognized cancer programs already in place. His efforts include the recruitment of more than 70 top cancer specialists to develop programs that complement the existing research and clinical expertise. "The future of cancer care is the ability to make discoveries that can quickly impact patient care and cancer prevention," Dr. Willson said. "We have a discovery engine of amazing depth that exists in very few other places. What we’ve been able to do in the last five years is link that engine to our clinical teams so that we can provide not only exquisite patient care and access to the latest treatment and technology, but also the thinking that comes from having a comprehensive care team for every patient."

With NCI designation, Children’s and UT Southwestern enhance their ability to provide patients living in much of the central U.S., including Oklahoma and southern Kansas; western Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana; and eastern New Mexico and Colorado, access to innovative treatments available only at NCI-designated centers. The Children’s CCBD has 26 oncology and hematology specialists diagnosing and treating approximately 1,000 new patients every year.