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CHI Cancer Centers Awarded $10.4 Million To Expand Research Opportunities and Benefit Cancer Patients

Six Catholic Health Initiatives cancer centers have been awarded $10.4 million by the National Cancer Institute to expand research that began three years ago with the National Community Cancer Center Program.

The NCCCP, a nationwide pilot program in cancer research when it debuted in 2007, is now a permanent initiative sponsored by the NCI, which is using approximately $80 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to expand high-level research to a total of 30 sites across the national network.

Five CHI hospitals and their cancer centers were part of the NCCCP’s pilot stage: Good Samaritan Hospital, Kearney, Neb.; Penrose-St. Francis Health Services, Colorado Springs, Co.; Saint Elizabeth Regional Medical Center, Lincoln, Neb.; Saint Francis Medical Center, Grand Island, Neb.; and St. Joseph Medical Center, Towson, Md. Mercy Medical Center, Des Moines, Iowa, one of the 14 expansion sites awarded federal funding, will receive $900,000 annually over the next two years for its research programs.

“This was a tremendous effort by our MBO cancer centers, our national oncology team and the CHI Foundation,” said Deb Hood, director of national oncology service line for CHI, which is the nation’s second-largest faith-based health system with 72 facilities in 18 states. “We are thrilled to have more dollars to support the work being done to provide quality care and clinical trial opportunities to our cancer patients.”

John DiCola, CHI’s Senior Vice President for Strategy and Business Development, said, “We’re proud that CHI is the largest participant in this important and innovative national program that gives thousands and thousands of patients greater access to the latest cancer treatment right in their own communities.”

The new funding for NCCCP activities begins July 1 and continues through June 30, 2012. The five original NCCCP sites within CHI submitted a total of 63 project proposals; 52 were approved and funded.

Projects include:

Good Samaritan, Kearney – $1,605,728 for 10 projects. One project will test strategies for improving the effectiveness of community outreach programs in addressing cancer disparities, with a focus on rural populations.

Penrose-St. Francis, Colorado Springs – $1,499,299 for 11 projects. Projects include the development of a comprehensive smoking cessation program for newly diagnosed cancer patients and survivors.

Saint Elizabeth, Lincoln – $1,139,776 for eight projects. One of the awards will allow Saint Elizabeth to hire a disparities-care coordinator to manage cancer patients across the continuum, with a focus on Hispanic and African-American populations.

Saint Francis, Grand Island –$911,444 for six projects. One project will develop a comprehensive cancer survivorship program and support genetic counseling services in rural community settings across Nebraska.

St. Joseph, Towson –$2,961,220 for 15 projects. One clinical trials project facilitates early phase drug-development studies in community hospital settings, in partnership with the University of Chicago and the University of Maryland.

Mercy Medical Center in Des Moines, which becomes the sixth CHI facility to join the NCCCP program, was one of only seven community-based hospitals awarded NCCCP funding in this second wave. “This represents a significant recognition of CHI's role and contribution, as well as the recognition of Mercy's strengths as an applicant,” DiCola said.

The NCCCP is a network of community-hospital cancer centers working to provide research-based cancer care spanning the full cancer continuum – from prevention, screening, diagnosis, treatment and survivorship through end-of-life care. The program is designed as a community-based platform to support basic, clinical and population-based research initiatives.

The program began with 16 hospital-based community cancer centers in 14 states. The expansion uses approximately $40 million of ARRA funds to support additional research opportunities within the original network of NCCCP sites and another $40 million of ARRA funds to expand the network to 14 cancer centers in eight additional states. additional states. The funding will provide an additional $500,000 for a 4th year of program work for the original CHI NCCCP sites.

“The pilot stage of the NCCCP was very successful according to multiple metrics set by the National Cancer Institute,” said Hood. “That success opened the doors for more cancer centers to join the program and for greater project funding, like the grants our cancer centers will be putting to work for the next two years.”

The funding will allow CHI’s cancer centers to “increase efforts in community outreach and increase awareness in the communities about clinical trials,” said Dr. Mark Krasna, medical director of the St. Joseph Cancer Institute in Towson and the principal investigator for CHI’s system-wide efforts in the NCCCP. “In addition, this funding will help expand the St. Joseph Cancer Institute’s multidisciplinary cancer care program by hiring more nurse coordinators and navigators.”

The NCCCP is designed to create new research opportunities across the cancer continuum, from screening and treatment to follow-up care, with an emphasis on minority and underserved populations. Expanding the NCCCP network will provide access to more patients in community cancer centers to support basic, translational, clinical, and population-based research toward effective new prevention strategies and treatments for cancer patients.

The program is studying ways for patients to have access to the latest, evidence-based care close to where they live. For a variety of reasons, many cancer patients cannot commute to major academic medical centers for treatment. In fact, 85 percent of patients are diagnosed, and receive at least their first course of treatment, at a community hospital.

Participating cancer centers are addressing ways to reduce health care disparities, improve access to clinical trials, improve overall quality of care, promote an infrastructure to collect high-quality biospecimens such as blood and tissue samples for research, and to link with national computer networks that support research. The centers also work to improve survivorship, palliative care services and patient advocacy.

About Catholic Health Initiatives: CHI is a national nonprofit health organization with headquarters in Denver. The faith-based system operates in 18 states and includes 72 hospitals; 40 long-term care, assisted- and residential-living facilities; and two community health-services organizations. Together, those facilities provided $553 million during the 2009 fiscal year in charity care and community benefit, including services for the poor, free clinics, education and research. With annual revenues of $8.6 billion, CHI ranks as the nation’s second-largest Catholic health care system.

This was a tremendous effort by our MBO cancer centers, our national oncology team and the CHI Foundation. We are thrilled to have more dollars to support the work being done to provide quality care and clinical trial opportunities to our cancer patients.

- Deb Hood, director of national oncology service line for CHI

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