Home » Markey Cancer Center attains NCI’s highest status as a Comprehensive Cancer Center

Markey Cancer Center attains NCI’s highest status as a Comprehensive Cancer Center

LEXINGTON, Ky.  The University of Kentucky Markey Cancer Center announced that it has earned a National Cancer Institute “Comprehensive” Cancer Center designation, the highest recognition awarded by the NCI. Markey is the first and only center in Kentucky to achieve this designation, and the next-closest Comprehensive Cancer Center is nearly 200 miles from Lexington. There are currently only 72 NCI-Designated Cancer Centers in the country, and 56 are Comprehensive Cancer Centers.  

As the federal government’s principal cancer research and training agency, the NCI awards designations based on excellence in cancer treatment, diagnosis and prevention. Markey received an initial NCI Designation in 2013.   

To become an NCI-Designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, centers must demonstrate added depth and breadth of laboratory, clinical and population-based research – including substantial transdisciplinary research that bridges these scientific areas. Comprehensive Cancer Centers are also recognized for cancer research and control programs that benefit the communities they serve and programs to educate and train the next generation of cancer researchers and clinicians.  

“In 2009, the University of Kentucky’s leaders envisioned achieving an initial National Cancer Institute designation. Thanks to the dedication of faculty and staff under the leadership of Markey Cancer Center Director Dr. Mark Evers, that goal was accomplished in four years,” said UK President Eli Capilouto. “To truly be the University for Kentucky, we raised the stakes and decided that UK will continue to be a leader in cancer research by becoming a Comprehensive Cancer Center. A bold vision, now accomplished, and the next step in providing both the best cancer health care in the Commonwealth, but now leading the U.S. on the quest to find a cure.”  

In addition to achieving Comprehensive designation, the UK Markey Cancer Center was awarded $13.5 million through a five-year renewal of its NCI Cancer Center Support Grant to support research programs, shared equipment and resources.   

The elevation to an NCI-Designated Comprehensive Cancer Center will further enhance Markey’s ability to attract top-tier researchers and clinicians, secure additional research funding, collaborate with national and international partners, and give patients access to leading-edge treatments and clinical trials – resulting in better patient care and health outcomes for Kentuckians. 

Research-driven care is a hallmark of a Comprehensive Cancer Center, and it plays a significant role on patient outcomes. Numerous studies show that patients treated at NCI-Comprehensive Cancer Centers have better survival and recovery rates.  

“At Markey, researchers and physicians work together to care for patients. They collaborate to develop new approaches to detect, prevent and treat cancer. They innovate solutions to some of Kentucky’s greatest challenges. This is precisely what it means to be a Comprehensive Cancer Center,” said Robert S. DiPaola, UK provost and co-executive vice president for health affairs. “Their approach to matching compassionate clinical care with innovative research helps us bring the most ‘cutting edge’ options and treatments to Kentuckians. NCI has affirmed what we already know — that Markey’s level of care and treatment is the best in class.”  

The comprehensive designation ensures Markey patients – 97% of whom come from Kentucky – can access new drugs, treatment options and clinical trials offered only at NCI-designated centers.
Since achieving NCI designation in 2013, Markey’s research growth and impact on cancer care in the Commonwealth has been significant. In that timespan:  

  • Markey outpatient visits have increased by 69% and new patient volume by 75%.  
  • More than 100 new cancer researchers have been recruited to UK. 
  • External funding to Markey researchers has more than doubled. Markey researchers currently hold more than $60.4 million in external funding, more than 70% from the National Institutes of Health, including the NCI. 
  • Markey received nearly $7 million in additional funding from grants available to NCI-designated cancer centers. 

Markey’s incredible clinical growth has necessitated the need for newer patient facilities. In 2021, the University of Kentucky began planning a new outpatient cancer treatment center and advanced ambulatory complex to bring Markey’s outpatient services under one roof. Anticipated to open in 2027, the new complex will allow Markey to grow and expand as more patients from in and out of state need its services.  

Today, more than 250 faculty from 11 of UK’s 16 colleges are actively working on cutting-edge cancer research in the lab, the clinic and the community – including population-based studies that address the environmental and behavioral factors that contribute to cancer. Markey researchers actively address health disparities among populations disproportionately impacted by cancer, including communities of color and rural and Appalachian Kentucky.   

Markey’s clinical and research work is backed by the university, the Commonwealth of Kentucky, and philanthropy through the Markey Cancer Foundation and UK HealthCare Philanthropy. Institutional, state and philanthropic funds have 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 oncology research and clinical programs at UK.    

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