Connections - February 2013

Tue, 02/26/2013
Roswellness Connections
A Message from the President
Dr. Donald Trump

The NCI Comprehensive Designation: The Most Prestigious Honor a Cancer Center Can Receive

I’m often asked what it means for a cancer center to be designated “comprehensive.”

Long before the National Cancer Institute was founded, much less began recognizing cancer centers, our founder, Dr. Park, established a center, the first of its kind, in Buffalo, NY. Dr. Roswell Park was the first to envision clinicians and scientists working together to understand cancer. He founded the concept of the cancer center in bringing together individuals of varied disciplines – pathologists, bacteriologists, surgeons, and biochemists – and is credited with establishing the first “multidisciplinary approach” to cancer in the world. This model was soon copied in other centers in this country and throughout Europe.

In 1937, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) was founded, and in 1971, its mission was broadened as a consequence of the National Cancer Act, which launched the so-called “war on cancer.” 

In 1974, the NCI recognized the value of the center concept as initiated by Dr. Park and began recognizing high-performing centers as “NCI-designated.”  RPCI was in the first group of three centers so recognized (RPCI, Memorial Sloan-Kettering in NYC and MD Anderson in Houston, TX).  This federal designation to centers dedicated to clinical cancer care, cancer education and cancer research recognizes and enhances the development of more effective approaches to prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer.  To be designated, a center must withstand extensive peer review, meet rigorous national standards and have made fundamental contributions to reducing the cancer burden. 

In 1992, the NCI further developed this concept and began to designate centers as “comprehensive” if they demonstrated programs of excellence in clinical care, education and research in cancer causation, treatment and prevention.  Again, RPCI was among the first three centers to receive the “comprehensive” designation.  RPCI has held that designation continuously since 1992.  Today, only 41 U.S. cancer centers hold the “comprehensive” designation from the NCI and RPCI is one of only three centers in New York State that have earned this distinction, the other two being Columbia and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

An NCI designation is more than a federal stamp of approval.  It affords cancer centers such as RPCI a voice in the national cancer dialogue and an enviable seat at the table where critical decisions are made, standards for quality of cancer care are developed and optimal national treatment and prevention guidelines are established.  The NCI Comprehensive Cancer Center designation demonstrates that a center’s cancer research, education and clinical care programs are cutting-edge and world-class, demonstrating a depth and breadth of research activities – from basic laboratory investigations to clinical trials and population science and prevention studies.

Maintenance of this designation has a far-reaching impact on every component of RPCI’s mission and vision.  It guides the development of more effective cancer therapies, prevention strategies and diagnostic technologies; facilitates recruitment of the best and brightest scientists and clinicians; enhances the prospect of continued foundation and federal funding; is a key driver of local and regional economics by creating new jobs and spin-off companies (every NCI grant dollar awarded to a center is estimated to return $7 in economic growth to the region in which a center resides); aides in forming healthcare, scientific and community partnerships; and is an enormous source of  civic and regional pride.

Renewal of this designation is far from automatic.  A multi-step, keenly competitive process, an NCI designation requires the submission of a comprehensive (over 1,000 pages) cancer center support grant (CCSG), or “core grant,” application every five years.  This CCSG provides to cancer centers the resources to support the infrastructure necessary to conduct interdisciplinary research.  The CCSG supports a fraction of the Institute’s shared resources, which are necessary for the conduct of laboratory, population-based and clinical research; in addition, a small amount of funding is provided to support the work of senior scientific and administrative leaders of the center’s programs as well as providing a small amount of seed funding for new recruits and feasibility studies.

Our grant application will be submitted for review before May 25 as we look to renewal of our CCSG in the spring of 2014.  The application is an exciting opportunity to proudly showcase our scientific excellence, leadership and collaborations, and demonstrate that we have been wise stewards of our community’s confidence and support.  Renewal of our CCSG also speaks volumes to the quality, integrity and robustness of our research – research that gives hope to so many and holds the key to tomorrow’s advances and cures.  We expect to learn the results of our CCSG application during the first quarter of 2014. 

In our last CCSG renewal, we were awarded roughly $4 million per year for each of five years.  Of course, with the pressure on the nation’s economy and the reduction in the amount of money allocated by Congress to the National Institutes of Health research mission of our country, the RPCI CCSG award was reduced 5 percent for 2012-2013 and if the current plan for “sequestration” goes into effect, we anticipate this award will be reduced another 10 percent for 2013-2014.  The funding level for 2013-2014 defines the base for our budget request for our CCSG renewal.

I am highly confident that our CCSG will be renewed with an outstanding level of enthusiasm.  Renewal of our CCSG carries with it the renewal of our status as an NCI-designated comprehensive cancer center – further affirmation of our commitment to conducting innovative and pioneering research and providing exemplary patient care.

-Donald L. Trump, MD, FACP
President & CEO

Institute News

Lt. Gov. Comes to RPCI to Launch Center for Personalized Medicine

New York Lieutenant Governor Robert Duffy was in Buffalo January 30 to announce the formation of Roswell Park’s Center for Personalized Medicine, an effort that was launched with $5.1 million in state funding and quickly grew into a $23.6 million genomic-medicine facility boosted by public/private collaboration.

Dr. Trump Joins Rep. Higgins, ACS in Highlighting Impacts of Sequestration

Federal support for cancer research could take a sharp hit if Congress does not take steps to avert dramatic budget cuts set to take effect March 1. RPCI hosted a February 11 press conference with Rep. Brian Higgins and the American Cancer Society to draw attention to these impacts. Dr. Trump talked about how RPCI is preparing for these likely cuts in a Feb.22 interview with The Cancer Letter.

Comprehensive Cancer Care Now Available in Niagara, Chautauqua Counties

The Institute’s efforts to bring world-class, multidisciplinary cancer care within reach for all Western New Yorkers have moved forward this year with the opening of a satellite location in Wheatfield offering dermatological care and surgical consultations and with the announcement of Roswell Park’s affiliation with a respected Jamestown oncology practice.

Sen. Schumer Backs Effort to Secure Federal Funding for RPCI Construction Project

In a Feb. 21 press conference at RPCI, U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer outlined his support for our application for federal tax credits to close a $4 million funding gap for RPCI's Clinical Sciences Center. The project, slated for groundbreaking this spring, will add needed space for clinical programs, cancer research and support services.   

Donor Dollars at Work

Exploring the Development of Leukemia in Children

Pediatric acute myeloid leukemia (AML) has a 50 percent cure rate and is the leading cause of leukemic deaths in children.  It is considered a genetic disease caused by malfunctioning genes.  It is very frequently characterized by genetic mutations that result in the production of an abnormal protein researchers call AML1-MTG.

The presence of this protein alone does not seem sufficient to cause leukemia, but it greatly increases the risk of leukemia development.  Most interestingly, analysis of blood spots at birth showed that the AML1-MTG protein can originate before birth, thus predisposing a child to the development of leukemia later in life.

Donations to RPCI are helping Nicoletta Sacchi, PhD, Department of Cancer Genetics, and her team explore the origins of leukemia by looking at what stimulates a AML1-MTG positive blood cell to transform into a leukemic cell.

“Of the children with this mutation, our research will bring us closer to determining which ones are at risk for developing leukemia,” said Dr. Sacchi.  “Our goal is earlier intervention and treatment and, quite possibly, the prevention of this devastating disease.”

Dr. Sacchi is a Professor of Oncology and Distinguished Member of Cancer Genetics. She has a history of success in the area of leukemia research and joined the faculty of RPCI in 2003.   For more information about Dr. Sacchi, click here.

The Cancer Experts

Roswell Park faculty members regularly share their expertise with major national media outlets and oncology publications. Some recent examples:

Dr. James Mohler to Medscape: “We need a test that will distinguish the potentially fatal prostate cancer from the indolent prostate cancer, and we don't have that. There are lots of people working on this, and I'm a huge believer in PSA velocity to help guide men's decision-making process.”

Dr. Sharon Evans to The People’s Pharmacy: “The general thinking right now, and that's been advanced also by the National Institutes of Health here in the U.S., is that fever can actually help the body fight off infection, so there may be a disadvantage to lowering fever unless it's unusually high.”

Dr. Steven Nurkin to Women magazine: “There is no question that currently our biggest obstacle in colorectal cancer is the underutilization of screening. Approximately 40 percent of the U.S. population is not getting screened — even though we know that screening works.”


Chef’s Restaurant Owner is Goin’ Bald for Bucks

Lou Billittier, owner of Chef’s restaurant in Buffalo, is raising funds to shave his head as part of Roswell Park’s Goin’ Bald for Bucks. On March 20, “Rayzor” Rob Ray will shave Lou’s head before an exclusive crowd at Chef’s. Lou pledged to go bald to show support to the many patients who are fighting a daily battle he cannot imagine. Click here to read more about Lou’s Goin’ Bald.

The Ride For Roswell is Filling Up – Register Today!

Registration for The Ride For Roswell is now open! This year’s Ride will kick off again with an inspirational Opening Ceremony on Friday, June 21. That is the evening before 7,500 riders take to their bikes on Saturday, June 22.There are many ways you can participate in The Ride For Roswell, whether you are a rider, volunteer, sponsor or a fan in the stands. Be a part of this powerful event and unforgettable weekend – register today!

Buffalo Niagara Day of Giving

Support Roswell Park and be a part of the Day of Giving! On Friday, March 1, Buffalo Niagara’s Day of Giving will host “Spring It On,” a 24-hour online fundraising event where Western New Yorkers will be encouraged to make a secure, one-time, online donation to the local not-for-profit agency of their choice. Roswell Park will be participating in the fundraiser powered by the United Way, and our page can be viewed here. The fundraiser will take place from 12:00 a.m. until 11:59 p.m.

RPCI in the News

Pet Tales: Sierra the Beagle Spreads Cheer at Roswell Park  – The Buffalo News, 2/12/13
Budget Battle in D.C. Threatens Cancer Research in WNY  – The Buffalo News, 2/12/13
Roswell a Leader for Blood, Bone Marrow TransplantsBuffalo Business First, 2/7/13
Smokers Turning to E-Cigarettes to Help Them QuitWBFO-FM, 2/6/13
Roswell Offers "Personalized" Medicine – WIVB-TV Channel 4, 2/5/13

Roswellness Radio

Missed our radio broadcasts? Conversations about all aspects of cancer are just a click away. Check out our most recent podcasts:

You Should Know

Tips for Using Medical Devices at Home

Smaller and more portable medical devices—like infusion pumps, glucose monitors, patient lifts and respirators—are allowing many Americans to live more active lives, outside of a hospital or care center. While these devices enable more independent living, their complexity and maintenance can make home use more risky. Because a device is portable does not mean that is was designed for use at home, where factors like pet hair, well water or temperature changes may adversely affect the device.

Currently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration is drafting guidelines aimed at manufacturers, health care professionals, patients, consumers and caregivers, to improve safety of using these medical devices at home. In the meantime, if you or a loved one uses a medical device, follow these tips:

  • Know how your device works, and keep instructions nearby
  • Understand and respond properly to alarms.
  • Have a back-up plan and supplies (like batteries) for emergencies
  • Keep a list of emergency numbers available and updated
  • Teach your family and caregivers about your device
  • Ask your physician to review your condition periodically and have the device checked by the agency who supplied it
  • Report serious events to your device’s supplier and to the FDA’s MedWatch; (800) 332-1088

For additional safety tips, read Home Healthcare Medical Devices: A Checklist.

Fruits and Veggies May Help Ward off Breast Cancer

You’ve always known they’re good for you, but here’s more incentive to add more fruits and vegetables to your meals: The micronutrients in produce, called carotenoids, appear to inhibit tumor growth and reduce the spread of breast cancers, according to findings published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

In the analysis, which pooled data from eight cohort studies and assessed findings on more than 7,000 case subjects and controls, the women who had higher blood levels of carotenoids were the least likely to develop breast cancer. The association was particularly strong for estrogen-negative breast cancers, a cancer type that does not depend on estrogen to grow and often has a poorer prognosis. This research with carotenoids offers one of the first modifiable risk factors for this breast cancer type.

“Some studies have shown b-carotene supplements may be harmful,” cautions Linda Leising, RD, Senior Clinical Dietician in the Department of Nutrition and Food Services at RPCI. “It’s best to include carotenoid-rich foods in your diet regularly to obtain the benefits of this healthy nutrient as nature intended.”

Which foods have the highest amounts of carotenoids? Think deeply-colored fruits and vegetables, such as carrots, sweet potatoes, winter squash, kale, swiss chard, spinach, collard greens, cantaloupe and mango.