UC Davis Cancer Center receives ‘comprehensive’ status

The UC Davis Cancer Center has recently achieved a “comprehensive” designation from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in Bethesda, Maryland.

The new “comprehensive” designation signifies that the Cancer Center, now called the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center, has demonstrated major levels of achievement in research and patient care, according to Ralph de Vere White, the director of the center.

The National Cancer Institute, which is part of the National Institutes of Health, was set up to defeat cancer.

However, the NCI “can’t do everything to defeat cancer in Bethesda,” de Vere White said.

The UC Davis center will receive continued infrastructure funding from NCI to support its comprehensive activities. Funding from NCI for the infrastructure of the UC Davis program has grown from $8.8 million to $35 million in the last 10 years.

“Our center crosses the whole campus,” de Vere White said.  “We see ourselves as a campus-wide resource.”

In addition to the patient services provided by the Comprehensive Cancer Center, there are six programs under which the center’s research work is organized: Molecular Oncology, Population Sciences and Health Disparities, Comparative Oncology, Prostate Cancer, Cancer Therapeutics and Biomedical Technology.

“In less than 10 years we [made it to] ‘major league’ status,” said Moon S. Chen, Jr., co-leader of the Population Sciences and Health Disparities program and associate director of cancer control at the Comprehensive Cancer Center. Recently the NCI sent 26 people to UC Davis to verify and review the Comprehensive Cancer Center’s activities.

“You’re not ‘major league’ until you pass all these tests. You have to be very good,” said Chen, who pointed out that the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center is now part of a group of 41 cancer centers nationwide that have achieved comprehensive status.

Wolf-Dietrich D. Heyer, co-leader of the Molecular Oncology program and chair of the department of microbiology, agrees.

“This designation is the proverbial ‘big deal,’” Heyer said. “UC Davis is now in the same category as MD Anderson, Memorial Sloan-Kettering, the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Mayo Clinic — institutions which are among the world leaders in cancer research and treatment.”

De Vere White explains that the main goal is to learn how to treat cancer better.

“Our treatment just isn’t good enough,” said de Vere White, who explained that the researchers and physicians of the Cancer Center seek to “make available early treatment and prevention to everyone.”

In comparison with other racial and cultural groups, Asian Americans show increased rates of liver cancer, while Latinos show comparatively decreased rates of colonoscopy procedures and Native American women are less likely to seek mammogram tests. California is unique among U.S. states in that it has the largest populations of Asian Americans, Native Americans and Latinos in the country.

“We have both the opportunity and the obligation to make sure we are serving each of these racial groups,” Chen said.

As part of the effort to improve treatment, de Vere White stressed the importance of “integration of effort” and seeks to enhance cooperation among researchers among the five UC campuses which have medical centers and medical schools: UC San Francisco, UC Los Angeles, UC San Diego, UC Irvine and UC Davis.

“Our obligation is not to hold any secrets but to share our findings and discoveries with all humanity,” Chen said.

Now all five cancer centers at the five UC campuses have achieved “comprehensive” status. The UC Davis Cancer Center is also part of a local network, called the Cancer Care Network (CCN), of cancer centers located in Merced, Pleasanton, Sacramento, Marysville and Truckee.

BRIAN RILEY can be reached at science@theaggie.org.