USC Norris medical leaders joined other faculty and staff in June to finalize preparations for the NCI site review. From left, Preet Chaudhary, Stuart Siegel, Heinz-Josef Lenz, Amy S. Lee, Roxana E. Bellia, Stephen B. Gruber, Janet L. Villarmia, Graham Casey and Alan S. Wayne.

USC Norris medical leaders joined other faculty and staff in June to finalize preparations for the NCI site review. From left, Preet Chaudhary, Stuart Siegel, Heinz-Josef Lenz, Amy S. Lee, Roxana E. Bellia, Stephen B. Gruber, Janet L. Villarmia, Graham Casey and Alan S. Wayne.

The USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center has received an elite score from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) as part of its five-year core grant renewal process.

The June site review produced the best result ever for the prestigious medical facility situated on USC’s Health Sciences Campus near downtown Los Angeles, earning an “outstanding” distinction from the NCI reviewers.

“This highly laudatory review is a validation by the nation’s cancer experts of all the considerable effort and talent of the Norris Cancer Center senior leaders, program, and core directors and administration,” said Stephen B. Gruber, director of the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center.

“The NCI recognition reaffirms the center as a scientific leader as well as a vital community and regional resource,” said Carmen A. Puliafito, dean of the Keck School of Medicine of USC.

Established in 1971, the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center has benefited from continuous recognition and funding from the NCI since 1973, when it was named one of the original eight comprehensive cancer centers in the country. Today, there are 45 comprehensive cancer centers in the United States, and this result moves USC Norris into the upper echelon of NCI-designated comprehensive cancer centers, of which USC Norris is one of only three in Los Angeles County. In its previous review, USC Norris had received a score in the range classified by the NCI as “excellent.”

USC Norris provides care for patients in its affiliated hospitals and outpatient clinics. It conducts hundreds of clinical trials, offering the latest in innovative cancer treatments. USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center-affiliated hospitals include the USC Norris Cancer Hospital, Keck Hospital of USC, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and Los Angeles County+USC Medical Center.

“We are now poised to build upon this incredible accomplishment to further strengthen our efforts to push the boundaries of cancer discovery in order to better prevent, diagnose, treat and cure cancer,” said Gruber, an oncologist and geneticist who holds the H. Leslie and Elaine S. Hoffman Cancer Research Chair at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.

The review recommends continued full funding from the NCI to continue its support of a broad range of clinical, research and educational programs at the USC Norris. The award is designed to reduce the impact of cancer upon the lives of people in California and beyond.

More than 200 scientists and physicians from the faculty of the Keck School and other USC schools are members of the USC Norris Comprehensive Cancer Center, investigating the complex origins and progression of cancer, developing prevention strategies and searching for cures.

Preparing for the site visit was a long, complex and highly integrated process that included extensive and detailed data collection, analysis and reporting, said Alan S. Wayne, MD, director of the Children’s Center for Cancer and Blood Diseases and head of the division of hematology, oncology and blood and marrow transplantation for Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. Wayne is also associate director of USC Norris and professor of pediatrics for the Keck School of Medicine of USC.

“Peer-review that acknowledges the mission and work of our Cancer Center is particularly gratifying,” noted Gruber. “Expert reviewers rigorously evaluated all of our programs, shared resources, and infrastructure, and provided us with more than just a meritorious commendation. We received valuable guidance to help us continue our exceptional trajectory.”

He added, “I would also like to extend my heartfelt thanks to our administrative and informatics staff, who devoted thousands of hours to prepare this grant application, helping assure continuous support from the NCI through 2020 and beyond.”

by Les Dunseith