Roswell Park Cancer Institute received an essential endorsement Tuesday with the announcement that the National Cancer Institute will renew a core federal grant for five more years.
The decision, announced during Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s visit to the cancer center, also renews Roswell Park’s designation as a comprehensive cancer center.
“The designation confirms to patients, researchers and other institutions the great work that is occurring here,” said Dr. Donald L. Trump, president and CEO of Roswell Park.
Roswell Park will receive $19 million over the next five years. That is less than the $24 million that Roswell Park requested and a reflection of federal cuts to cancer funding, officials said.
The designation, a seal of approval, helps attract researchers, other government and industry grants and charitable donations.
Cuomo spoke warmly of Roswell Park, talking about how his father, former Gov. Mario M. Cuomo, considered the cancer center a “point of pride.” He also characterized Roswell Park as a “treasure” and noted that it is the key asset in the region that led to the birth and growth of the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus.
Annual state support for Roswell Park remained stable in 2014 at $102 million.
The federal government distinguishes between “cancer centers” that meet National Cancer Institute standards for either cancer prevention, medical services or research, and “comprehensive cancer centers” that meet standards in all three categories.
Renewal of the grant and status required extensive preparation, including a 1,273-page application submitted in the spring of 2013 documenting the work at Roswell Park. The process usually arouses anxiety at cancer centers, especially with federal budget constraints on funding and national prestige on the line.
Roswell Park went without a costly National Cancer Institute site visit under a new policy for cancer centers in good standing. Trump said the decision saved about $500,000 in costs associated with preparing for and conducting such visits by expert reviewers. The National Cancer Institute rated Roswell Park’s application as “outstanding,” Trump said.
The National Cancer Act established the Cancer Centers Program in 1971, when President Richard M. Nixon declared a national “war on cancer.” Today, the federal government recognizes 41 comprehensive cancer centers in the nation. Roswell Park gained the status in 1974.
“Through this federal commitment we give Roswell the support to continue their mission, giving life and hope to not just those they serve but all faced with cancer,” said Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo.
The designation is not a given. Founded in 1898 as the nation’s first cancer hospital, Roswell Park entered the 1990s in a period of decline under state ownership. The federal agency that supports cancer research, alarmed by shortcomings in the research program, threatened in 1999 to eliminate the cancer center’s core research grant and comprehensive designation.
Roswell Park became a public-benefit corporation in 1997, loosening its management ties to the state but maintaining taxpayer support. The latest grant application detailed Roswell Park’s accomplishments and goals, particularly in six key research areas: cell stress and biophysical therapies, experimental therapeutics, genetics, genitourinary cancers, population sciences, and tumor immunology and immunotherapy.
National Cancer Institute reviewers noted a “significant institutional commitment” that Trump said has placed the cancer center on an “upward trajectory.”