National Cancer Institute awards $48.6 million grant to MD Anderson

Extensive peer review results in top “exceptional” rating for cancer center support renewal

MD Anderson News Release 09/24/13

Broad, deep and outstanding research in cancer science, treatment and prevention have earned The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center a $48.6-million, five-year grant from the National Cancer Institute and an “exceptional” ranking, the highest possible, from the NCI’s extensive peer-review process.

Renewal of MD Anderson’s NCI Cancer Center Support Grant extends the institution’s status as a comprehensive cancer center, upheld since its designation as one of the first three such centers in 1971.  

“MD Anderson’s people never rest on their past excellence, but instead continually push further to keep leading the field with our research-based care and doing all that we can for patients,” MD Anderson President Ronald DePinho, M.D.,  said.

“Our exceptional rating by 41 peer reviewers from across the country reflects the respect and admiration earned by the accomplishments of MD Anderson faculty, staff and trainees,” DePinho said. “We will continue to honor the trust and confidence placed in MD Anderson with our best efforts to improve cancer prevention and treatment as well as the quality of life of those who face these diseases.”

The grant, $9.7 million annually, supports 19 research programs and 16 shared resources that serve the entire institution. Research programs range from basic science to clinical trials of new therapies.

“Strong, vibrant research environment”

The grant renewal application process culminated in an intensive two-day peer review site visit by a panel of experts appointed by NCI from institutions around the country. The 41-member committee reported back to NCI with overall rankings for every program and shared resource.

Overall quality of MD Anderson research programs was rated outstanding, and the panel noted “leadership and institutional commitments ensure a strong, vibrant research environment.”

“In summary, the cancer center continues to be one of the leading national and international proponents of concerted cancer research.  Its large size ensures that many areas of preclinical, clinical, prevention and behavioral research are covered in significant detail.  Overall, the programs have invested in strong science and treatment and prevention approaches,” the panel noted.

During the five years between renewals, MD Anderson:

  • Led clinical trials contributing to 22 of 71 cancer drug approvals by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, providing new options for cancer patients.
  • Published more than 12,000 papers in distinguished journals to significantly expand the understanding of  cancer prevention, detection, treatment and survivorship.
  • Remained the top recipient of grants and funding from the NCI, with more than 220 grants in effect totaling $120 million annually.
  • Won more than 50 multi-investigator grants, including 12 Specialized Programs in Research Excellence awarded by NCI to translate preclinical research discoveries into clinical trials for new treatments.
  • Increased the annual research budget from $450 million to $624 million.

MD Anderson’s grant renewal application was a massive undertaking that engaged hundreds of faculty and staff over two years to build the 2,963-page proposal and prepare for the site visit.

“Coming together to plan for the future and recognizing all that we have achieved has great value in its own right,” said Vice President for Translational Research Robert Bast, M.D. “The extensive evaluation of the quantity and quality of our research required for renewal, as well as the feedback received from peer review, provide a prime opportunity for us to learn and improve.”

Bast’s staff  led the effort, with Alan McClelland, Ph.D., associate vice president for programs, infrastructure and planning, overseeing the process and administering the CCSG. “We witnessed teamwork at a level that’s simply unmatched,” McClelland said.

"UT MD Anderson is a world leader  in the field of cancer research and in patient care, and receiving an exceptional rating from the National Cancer Institute once again provides an independent validation of that fact," said Dr. Ray Greenberg, executive vice chancellor for health affairs for The University of Texas System.

"This is a tribute to the hardworking faculty and staff of the nation's top cancer center  who  conduct groundbreaking research and provide state-of-the-art patient care."

Programs funded by the CCSG include:

  • Four in basic science focused on cancer metastasis, cancer genetics and epigenetics, cell biology and immunology.
  • Nine disease site programs that cover all major cancers.
  • Three thematic clinical/translational programs that address targeted therapy, radiation oncology physics and biology, and stem cell transplantation and cell therapy.
  • Three population-based research programs in clinical cancer prevention, epidemiology and behavioral and health disparities research.

Shared resources partially funded by the grant include the Clinical and Translational Research Center, biostatistics, bioinformatics, sequencing and microarray analysis, functional proteomics and a tissue biospecimen and pathology resource.

There are 68 NCI-designated cancer centers nationally, 41 are comprehensive cancer centers, which must demonstrate breadth and depth in laboratory, clinical, and population-based research, as well as substantial transdisciplinary research that bridges all three areas. They also must demonstrate professional and public education and dissemination of medical and public health advances in the communities they serve.