east bank University of Minnesota

Masonic Cancer Center retains NaCancer Institute designation as an “Outstanding” Comprehensive Cancer Center

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) has renewed its designation of the Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota (MCC), as a comprehensive cancer center after a highly competitive and rigorous process. 

This is the sixth consecutive designation awarded to the Masonic Cancer Center, which is one of only two NCI-designated comprehensive cancer centers in the state of Minnesota — the only one in the Twin Cities — and one of only 53 such centers nationwide.

Every five years, the cancer center must compete for its designation. In the newly released review, the cancer center not only succeeded in retaining the designation but also improved its overall score — earning its highest score to date. This will likely result in continued support  of ongoing groundbreaking research related to the causes of cancer, cancer prevention, survivorship, tobacco control and innovative strategies to treat cancer, including immuno and cellular therapies.

While the results of the renewal process are cause for celebration, what remains largely hidden is the significant effort that goes into this process; a huge team effort that began well over 18 months ago. In early May of this year, the cancer center welcomed an NCI team of 15 peer reviewers — most of whom from other NCI-designated cancer centers — to Minneapolis to meet with researchers, view our facilities and on-campus resources and hear presentations given by members of the cancer center, who must also respond to questions from reviewers.

“Everyone at the cancer center shares one goal,” said Douglas Yee, MD, director of the Masonic Cancer Center. “We are here to reduce the burden of cancer on Minnesotans through research, share the results of our work with peers and patients and develop new strategies designed to defeat cancer. Minnesota has a remarkable team of experts who have  advanced the standards of cancer prevention, care and survivorship with local and global impact.”

Comprehensive cancer centers are awarded based on several criteria:

  • Substantial peer-reviewed research supported by significant grant awards.
  • Strong evidence of collaborative research projects stretching across disciplines to find innovative solutions.
  • Profound scientific translation of cancer research to impact patient outcomes, incorporating advances in causes, prevention, treatment, and survivorship.
  • Robust commitment from both the University and the community at large.
  • Inclusion of the local and regional community within the cancer center’s research efforts.

“The NCI comprehensive cancer center designation unlocks a whole world of resources for our cancer research community,” said Aaron Schilz, MCC’s executive director for administration. “We look forward to the support this designation will continue to lend to crucial, innovative research infrastructure. This award also improves our ability to impact regional and national strategies in the fight against cancer, recruit talented clinicians and researchers and deliver the latest cancer research discoveries to communities across the state.”

Since 1998, the Masonic Cancer Center has been recognized as an NCI-designated comprehensive cancer center, indicating its preeminent scientific leadership, resources and the depth and breadth of research in basic, clinical and population sciences.

"The Masonic Cancer Center, of which I am honored to be a member, brings together researchers, physicians and other health professionals to focus on reimagining every aspect of cancer care," said Jakub Tolar, MD, Ph.D., vice president for Clinical Affairs at the U of M. "The Center's ongoing success comes from its collaborative way of working, combining a broad spectrum of skills, experience and expertise to better understand, prevent and treat cancer."

While visiting the center in May 2023, the NCI lauded the Masonic Cancer Center for its role in streamlining high-impact clinical trials while also deepening important community partnerships.

“As always, we are exceedingly grateful for all of the support and hard work from our cancer center members, university and hospital staff, donors, community partners, legislators and community of Minnesotans that has brought us to our sixth-consecutive NCI grant renewal,” said Yee.

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