LEXINGTON, Ky. (Aug. 10, 2018) — The University of Kentucky Markey Cancer Center announced Friday that the National Cancer Institute (NCI) renewed its national cancer center designation for the next five years. The UK Markey Cancer Center remains one of only 70 NCI-designated centers in the country and the only one in Kentucky.
“UK was founded for the people of Kentucky, and still today, they turn to us. Five years ago, we stood together and declared cancer in Kentucky had a new foe. That is a promise we intend to keep, and we are proud to announce further investment in that promise with the renewal of the Markey Cancer Center’s NCI-designation,” said UK President Eli Capilouto. “The renewal of this transformative designation will enable us to further deliver on our promise to those we serve and heal – to be a champion against the disease that for too long has robbed Kentuckians of happiness and health.”
Markey’s renewal as an NCI-designated cancer center includes a five-year grant projected at $10.8 million to support research, recruitment of faculty, education and clinical trials. The previous five-year grant from NCI helped Markey recruit dozens of new researchers and clinicians, pilot new research projects targeted at Kentucky issues, and launch precision medicine initiatives poised to change the standard of cancer care in the state.
“Earning NCI designation five years ago was both a recognition of our efforts up to that point, and a catalyst to do even more research, outreach, and clinical care for Kentucky and beyond,” said Markey Cancer Center Director Dr. Mark Evers. “With Kentucky still home to the highest cancer incidence and mortality rates in the nation, having access to the research-driven, high-acuity care an NCI-designated center offers is vital to our citizens. With this renewal, we will continue to push forward new efforts in cancer prevention, research and treatment options with the ultimate goal of conquering cancer in the commonwealth.”
In September 2017, Markey submitted a 1,300-page application seeking NCI designation renewal, highlighting its accomplishments over the past five years and detailing its plans for cancer care and research for the next five. Earlier this year, the NCI sent a dozen reviewers to Markey for a site visit to appraise the center’s work and plans. The renewal came with an improved overall score for Markey and a higher amount of projected funding from the NCI compared to the previous award.
Total research funding to Markey has increased 48 percent in the past five years; while NCI research funding during that same time has increased 24 percent. More than $2 million of that NCI funding comes from grants that are only available to NCI-designated cancer centers.
“The renewal of Markey’s NCI-designation as a research-oriented Center has broad impact on UK research, as the programs within the grant touch all aspects of research from undergraduates, to graduate students, and from basic to transdisciplinary and community-engaged research,” said Lisa Cassis, UK vice president for research. “We understand that it is critical that we use the power and breadth of research to reduce the burden of cancer in the commonwealth, and have designated cancer as a research priority at UK. Growth in cancer research as a result of the renewal of the NCI-designation moves us closer to our common goal of decreasing cancer in Kentucky.”
Since earning its initial NCI designation, Markey’s growth and impact on the commonwealth has been significant. Outpatient visits per year have increased more than 35 percent since 2012, and more than 55 percent since 2009 when the journey toward earning NCI designation began in earnest.
• To help patients from all corners of the state receive the best possible care close to home, in the past five years the Markey Cancer Center Affiliate Network has expanded from eight members to 20 members and counting. In fact, 59 percent of all new cancer cases in Kentucky are now directly or indirectly cared for by Markey via this network.
• In 2016, Markey launched its own Molecular Tumor Board, a precision medicine initiative that uses genetic analysis to help oncologists choose cancer therapies tailored to each patient’s individual needs.
• In 2015, the center launched the Markey Cancer Center Research Network, a collaboration among six regional hospital systems to run potentially life-saving clinical trials on-site and closer to home for many patients. Meanwhile, the Precision Medicine Clinic, a new space dedicated to providing cancer patients with increased access to phase I and phase II clinical trials, officially opened in early 2018.
“Being designated as a National Cancer Institute cancer center is important to all of us in that it is a result of much work, dedication and excellence in cancer care,” said Dr. Mark Newman, UK executive vice president for health affairs. “However, this designation has even greater significance to patients across Kentucky and beyond who benefit from the extraordinary care provided by world-class physicians and patient care providers as well as the research and preventive care opportunities.”
Markey’s clinical and research work is backed by the university, the Commonwealth of Kentucky, and philanthropy through the Markey Cancer Foundation. In the past five years, $215 million in institutional, state and philanthropic funds has supported the recruitment of cancer researchers and clinician scientists and the construction and renovation of clinical and state-of-the-art research space specifically for the oncology research and clinical programs at UK.
“In a state with the worst cancer rates in the Union, the Markey Cancer Foundation is proud to support Dr. Evers and his team as they advance cancer care in every community across Kentucky and beyond,” said Markey Cancer Foundation Executive Committee member Farra Alford, Sr. ”Their drive, their vision and their focus, coupled with extraordinary philanthropy, has made Markey the place where Kentucky comes to beat cancer.”
National Cancer Institute designation grants are awarded for five-year periods. Markey will have the opportunity to renew its status and simultaneously apply for Comprehensive Cancer Center designation, the highest level of NCI designation, in 2022.