April 30, 2021

Prestigious grant renewal hopes to fund the future of cancer discovery

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After many months of preparation and an extensive review process, the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at UAB will submit their P30 Cancer Center Support Grant (CCSG) renewal to the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to fund another five-years of success later this month.

Currently, the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center is one of 51 NCI-designated “comprehensive” cancer centers in the United States and is the only one in Alabama and in the Deep South region.

The O’Neal Cancer Center has benefited from this continuous designation and funding from the NCI since 1971 when it was named one of the NCI’s original eight comprehensive cancer centers.

Under the leadership of Barry P. Sleckman, M.D., Ph.D., the center’s basic science and translational research programs are at the forefront of improving cancer prevention, diagnosis, and treatment, including leading efforts in triple-negative breast cancer, multiple myeloma, prostate cancer, and skin cancer.

Additionally, the O’Neal Cancer Center, along with UAB Medicine’s Cancer Service Line, is home to a full array of treatment options from multidisciplinary clinics filled with cancer experts from different fields who are armed with the latest state-of-the-art technologies—all aiming to better the lives of patients from across Alabama and the globe.

Last renewed in 2016, the NCI support grant is the most prestigious federal grant that can be earned by an institution with significant cancer research and patient care programs. This renewal is the gold standard for cancer programs and is bestowed upon the nation’s top cancer centers in recognition of their innovative research, cutting-edge treatments, and community outreach.

Although O’Neal Cancer Center faculty and staff receive grants that support their specific research, NCI CCSG funding provides the infrastructure to maximize productivity. Portions of the grant sustain core facilities, support leadership-driven strategic initiatives, promote the growth of research programs, recruit new faculty, develop young scientists, and support administrative infrastructure.

A “comprehensive” designation also means UAB Medicine patients have access to leading-edge treatments or clinical trials that they may not otherwise have at local community hospitals or smaller cancer centers. For many, an NCI designation can hold the key to survival.

Preparing for the grant renewal and site visit is a roughly 18-month process that culminates with a competitive and rigorous peer-reviewed evaluation, which includes a written analysis and virtual site visit. After the written portion of the application is submitted later this month, the O’Neal Cancer Center will welcome peers for a virtual visit in the fall. Once both portions of the evaluation are completed, it’s expected we will receive our results by the end of the year.

On campus and around Birmingham, the O’Neal Cancer Center is a significant part of our economic powerhouse. This grant is the second-largest grant on campus—next to the UAB Center for Clinical and Translational Science (CCTS)—and should bring in $28 million over the next five years, once renewed.

The O’Neal Cancer Center powers more than 400 scientists and physician-scientists, cares for 20,000 patients annually, and is home to more than 135 employees, plus all the physicians and clinical staff engaged in cancer patient care. The NCI has designated us time and time again as a “comprehensive” cancer center, meaning we have received the highest level of designation given by the NCI. This is a recognition I am confident we can achieve again.

I know this renewal brings a lot of emotions, from anticipation to excitement, and I thank all of our faculty, staff, and leadership who are involved in this meticulous effort. It is with your hard work that we are continuing to push the boundaries of cancer exploration. I know, together, we will be successful in this pivotal grant renewal.