For inland Northern California, UC Davis Cancer Center's hard-won designation by the National Cancer Institute ranked as one of the top news stories of 2002. Only 61 of the nation's more than 6,000 hospitals have achieved the coveted designation. On the West Coast, UC Davis is the only NCI-designated center between San Francisco and Portland, Ore.
"The cancer patient is at the center of everything we're doing," says Ralph deVere White, cancer center director. "Our long effort to achieve NCI designation represents an investment in resources that didn't exist in this region before, and that people in our area will be benefiting from for years to come."
Announced in July, the distinction means both prestige and a $1.2 million annual grant from NCI through 2005. These funds will enable the cancer center to further build its clinical and research infrastructure.
The cancer center's next goal: to win the NCI's top recognition – designation
as a "comprehensive cancer center." Only 37 cancer centers nationwide have earned this title.
To achieve comprehensive status, UC Davis Cancer Center must strengthen its cancer etiology, control and prevention program. Moon S. Chen, Jr., one of the nation's foremost investigators into the cancer burden of ethnic minority groups, was brought in to co-direct that program with Jim Felton, a molecular biologist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
Together, Chen and Felton are fast building a nationally competitive cancer control program.
Chen is studying cancer and cancer prevention and control strategies in populations, particularly in Asians. Meanwhile, Felton coordinates the efforts of a team of scientists who are using defense technologies to trace the passage of carcinogens through living tissues, identify anti-cancer compounds in fruits and vegetables and prevent cancer before it can start.
Besides drawing on the great strengths of Lawrence Livermore and UC Davis, Chen and Felton also will harness the talents of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Western Human Nutrition Research Center and the California Department of Health Services — creating one of the nation's most formidable cancer control programs.
"We must use our new stature to attract and retain the brightest and best of students, postgraduate researchers, residents, physicians, nurses and allied health professionals," deVere White said. "We must make cancer a priority in all aspects of academic life within our university."