Press Release


Georgetown’s Cancer Center Awarded Top Designation by National Cancer Institute; Comprehensive Cancer Center Consortium Includes Hackensack Meridian’s John Theurer Cancer Center

The National Cancer Institute has awarded “comprehensive cancer center” status to Georgetown University‘s Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Robert C. Garrett, FACHE, CEO

Robert C. Garrett, FACHE, CEO

WASHINGTON (May 2, 2024) — The National Cancer Institute (NCI), a part of the National Institutes of Health, has awarded its most prestigious designation — “comprehensive cancer center” status — to Georgetown University‘s Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center in recognition of its high-impact research, community outreach and cancer care.

The NCI’s comprehensive cancer center designation, awarded by way of a competitive, rigorous, peer-reviewed “cancer center support grant,” was first received by Georgetown Lombardi 50 years ago. In addition, Hackensack Meridian Health’s John Theurer Cancer Center was renewed by the NCI as Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center’s research consortium partner – a consortium that exponentially amplifies the work of both cancer centers. More than 6.5 million people live in the areas served by both cancer centers.

Georgetown University President John J. DeGioia recognized Georgetown Lombardi members for their dedication to the community, research and patient care, and the University’s partnership with its academic health system partner, MedStar Health.

“Georgetown Lombardi has defined excellence in cancer research,” DeGioia said. “We’re grateful that the excellence of our faculty and staff has been recognized by the NCI and to have an extraordinary partner in MedStar Health. Georgetown Lombardi and MedStar Health, working with Hackensack Meridian Health, have made important contributions to medical research and clinical care, transforming the lives of the patients and families that we serve.”

DeGioia added, “Over the years, our clinicians and researchers have brought together three elements: high-impact research, community outreach and engagement, and patient-centered cancer care. Everything they do is aimed at preventing, treating and curing cancer, and ensuring that this care reaches those who need it most.”

In New Jersey, clinical care and research is provided at Hackensack Meridian Health and at its network of clinics and hospitals throughout the state.

“This grant is a testament to our shared commitment to discover innovations that change our understanding of cancer and ultimately, lead to the best care possible,” said Robert C. Garrett, FACHE, CEO, Hackensack Meridian Health. “Our extraordinary teams are delivering tomorrow’s cures today and transforming health care. We are honored to lead research that benefits residents across the state of New Jersey and partner with Georgetown Lombardi as part of this tremendous Comprehensive Cancer Consortium.”

50 Year History

In 1971, the National Cancer Act was signed, establishing the NCI’s cancer centers program. In 1974, Georgetown Lombardi received its first comprehensive cancer center designation. Fifty years later, in the spring of 2023, the cancer center submitted its latest renewal, leading to a daylong site visit by a committee of “peers” on Sept. 12. The committee recommended continued NCI designation as a Comprehensive Cancer Center Consortium.

“This highly coveted grant requires considerable virtuosity in laboratory and translational research, clinical research, population science research, community outreach and engagement, and in training the next generation of cancer researchers and clinicians,” says Louis M. Weiner, MD, who has served as director of Georgetown Lombardi since 2007.

The comprehensive cancer center status has a significant impact for people in Washington, DC, with MedStar Health, via designated affiliate hospitals, MedStar Georgetown University Hospital and MedStar Washington Hospital Center, including the most advanced cancer therapies and technologies, and tailoring services and educational outreach made available in collaboration with historically medically underserved populations.

Ken Samet, President and Chief Executive Officer of MedStar Health, said, “MedStar Health has enjoyed a long-standing partnership with Georgetown University playing a pivotal role in caring for patients across the Washington-Baltimore metropolitan region and beyond. This partnership grants our patients unmatched access to a multidisciplinary team of experts, clinicians, and researchers, collectively leading the transformation of cancer detection and treatment.Our patients benefit from personalized care delivered by physicians pioneering breakthrough advancements in diagnostics, technologies, and therapeutics through innovative clinical trial research. The MedStar Georgetown Cancer Institute allows us to make clinical trials more broadly available bringing innovative therapies from the laboratory to the patient bedside throughout the regions we serve.”

Care is delivered by exceptional fellowship-trained clinicians who lead clinical studies that offer access to advanced treatments. Researchers also train the next generation of scientists and clinicians in clinics and laboratories.

Weiner says recent work at Georgetown Lombardi with John Theurer and MedStar Health has shifted the paradigm in cancer in numerous ways, including conducting clinical trials that have changed the way melanoma is treated, modeling research that impacts breast cancer screening recommendations, and developing a medical-legal partnership that leverages the law to address health-harming legal needs.

“Since 2013, our collaboration with Georgetown Lombardi has been centered on research aimed at preventing, treating, and curing cancers through the fusion of scientific breakthroughs, expert patient care, education excellence, and community engagement,” stated Andre Goy, chairman of the John Theurer Cancer Center at Hackensack University Medical Center. “The NCI's renewal of our consortium illustrates the power of our combined programs and empowers us to continue to reduce the burden of cancer across our communities, improve patient outcomes, and move the needle in the field, as well as train the cancer experts of tomorrow. None of this could have been possible without the dedication of our fantastic team members across our consortium.”

Community Outreach and Engagement

Georgetown Lombardi prioritizes outreach and engagement into vulnerable communities to reach people historically underserved in New Jersey and Washington, DC, especially wards 6, 7 and 8, areas that have had some of the highest cancer death rates in the country.

In Washington, cancer education, screening and cancer care navigation is provided by its flagship community center, the Ralph Lauren Center for Cancer Prevention.

The Ralph Lauren Center was established in 2023, building on a 15-year foundation laid by its predecessor, the Capital Breast Cancer Center. It offers a dynamic patient navigation model that supports early detection (screening), diagnostic, treatment and preventative measures for breast, prostate, colorectal, lung and other cancers. The center also provides tailored community outreach, engagement and educational programming to vulnerable populations east of the Anacostia River.

“Our impact is ultimately determined by how well we address the cancer needs of our medically underserved neighbors,” says Weiner. He notes the 60% reduction in cancer deaths in the DC region over the past 20 years due to many factors and helped by the presence of a comprehensive cancer center in the community.

To help amplify the benefits of improved treatments, Weiner says the cancer center, along with its consortium partner, John Theurer, has exponentially expanded its community outreach and education efforts.

“In fact, in the last five years, despite the isolating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 34,000 people have participated in our community events,” Weiner says.

In New Jersey, the John Theurer Cancer Center Cancer Community Outreach and Engagement (CCOE) mission is to address critical gaps in cancer prevention, early detection and education efforts in both community-based and clinically based research in its catchment area, while ensuring a health equity lens is forefront in all activities. CCOE provides health and research-related education, connects the community to cancer screening and prevention resources, and navigates community members to and through the health care system.

The CCOE works in tandem with the Cancer Prevention Precision Control Institute (CPPCI) at the Hackensack Meridian Center for Discovery and Innovation (CDI). The CPPCI is dedicated to leveraging innovative behavioral science and health communication methodologies to address cancer disparities, community outreach and engagement, and improved health outcomes across the cancer care continuum.

One of the hallmark programs of the CCOE program is the Community-2-Care program, which is a comprehensive, evidence-based program that can be tailored for the audience to specific screen-detectable cancers (breast, cervical, colorectal and lung) and includes cancer risk assessment, SDOH assessment and linkage to resources, cancer-specific education, and tailored navigation. The CCOE program has received grant funding from both Gilead Sciences and the Merck Foundation to support these efforts broadly.

By the Numbers

An additional measurement of the cancer centers’ success is the level of research funding. In 2023, the cancer center's peer-reviewed grants for research had increased by 64% since 2018, the last time the cancer center competed for the designation, with total cancer-related funding now exceeding $35M.

“This grant funding doesn’t include the NCI cancer center support grant, nor grants for training education to train scientists or funding for clinical trials,” Weiner explains.

Training grants have more than tripled, and grants with multiple principal investigators have increased by more than 50%. More than a quarter of the cancer center’s 1,000+ research publications were in high-impact journals.

“This has happened with the deep commitment and strong support of Georgetown University, Hackensack Meridian Health and MedStar Health,” Weiner says.

The CCSG grant officially begins May 1 and covers five years. Weiner says typically, cancer centers reapply for their redesignation every four to five years; the external pressure ensures expedience to obtain goals set through a strategic planning process.

“We remain focused on the major aspects of the cancer continuum, from cancer prevention and early detection to effective treatments to survivorship,” Weiner says. “We’ll focus on new cancer targets and new drug development, such as immunotherapy and cell therapies like CAR-T treatment — both of which are already revolutionizing treatment for some cancers. We’ll explore the role of the microbiome and cancers occurring in younger people. And as we continue to make huge strides in treatment, there is a growing need to support cancer survivorship.”

Weiner says other areas of focus include tobacco control, cancer and aging, and cancer and global health.

“I could not be prouder to have the privilege of leading this cancer center, and am grateful to so many colleagues,” Weiner concludes.

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