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Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center earns NCI Merit Award

Oct. 17, 2023, 2:27 PM


by Tom Wilemon

Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center (VICC) has earned a Merit Extension Award from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in recognition of more than a decade of sustained exceptional progress.

The Merit Extension Award provides two additional years of funding from the NCI Cancer Center Support Grant (CCSG), adding $15 million to the $36 million grant that the NCI awarded to VICC in 2020. VICC became eligible for the Merit Extension Award after receiving two consecutive “exceptional” ratings, the highest possible, for the CCSG in 2015 and 2020. The ratings are based on a rigorous evaluation process conducted by nationally recognized peer reviewers.

Ben Ho Park, MD, PhD

“This is the highest recognition that an NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center can receive, and it is one that has to be earned,” said Ben Ho Park, MD, PhD, the Benjamin F. Byrd Jr. Professor of Oncology, Professor of Medicine and director of Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center. “I want to thank everyone for their collective efforts and unrelenting dedication to the Vanderbilt-Ingram mission. This requires a massive team effort. We are required to demonstrate exceptional results and impact across all aspects of the Cancer Center as peer reviewers, NCI staff and the National Cancer Advisory Board evaluate all facets before granting a Merit Extension Award.

“I want to especially thank the VICC senior leadership team, both faculty and staff, whose hard work, effort and commitment enabled this award. I would like to give special recognition to Jennifer Pietenpol, PhD, whose incredible vision and leadership over the past 15 years while director, propelled two consecutive exceptional merit ratings enabling this extension,” Park said.

Without the Merit Extension Award, VICC would have to reapply for CCSG renewal in 2025. CCSG funding for the maximum period of seven years enables NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers to focus on more long-range planning and pursue innovative research.

“This Merit Extension recognizes the continuing exceptional impact of the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center on cancer research, patients, and in reducing the burden of cancer in Tennessee, and expresses the confidence NCI has in the leadership of the Center,” said Henry Ciolino, PhD, director of the Office of Cancer Centers at the NCI.

The funding supports VICC in advancing cancer research discoveries, sustaining the work of its scientific leadership and administration, and in maintaining its infrastructure, including shared resources of cancer investigators. The funding also supports research education, training, career development, community outreach and engagement, and all aspects of inclusive excellence.

VICC is the only NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center in Tennessee providing care for adult and pediatric cancer patients. There are only 56 cancer centers in the United States with this highest designation from the NCI, and VICC is one of nine to have earned a Merit Extension Award to date.

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