Roswell Park Earns ‘Exceptional’ Rating from National Cancer Institute With Best-Ever Core Grant

Region’s only Comprehensive Cancer Center earns maximum rating, marking five decades of consecutive NCI support

Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center has earned its most highly rated grant from the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The NCI renewed Roswell Park’s status as a Comprehensive Cancer Center — a designation held by less than 4% of cancer centers — awarding Roswell Park the highest possible “Exceptional” rating as it renewed a grant Roswell Park has successfully competed for since 1972.

The five-year award is Roswell Park’s 13th consecutive Cancer Center Support Grant (CCSG) from the NCI. No cancer center has held NCI designation longer than Roswell Park, which is one of the model programs on which the Cancer Centers program was based. The achievement follows an in-depth review by cancer experts from around the country, and signifies the highest level of documented excellence in cancer research, patient care and community outreach.

“I could not be prouder of the Roswell Park team for demonstrating absolute excellence in the services we provide for our community,” says , President, CEO and M&T Bank Presidential Chair in Leadership at Roswell Park, and director of its CCSG. “To be recognized as an elite and truly ‘Exceptional’ center — a distinction that only a handful of cancer centers have ever achieved — you have to demonstrate the knowledge, passion and commitment to be a positive and impactful resource for your region. You have to make a difference and show that you are improving people’s lives.”

“I applaud the Roswell Park family on their work to reach a new height of achievement with this ‘Exceptional’ grant renewal and historic redesignation as an NCI Comprehensive Cancer Center,” says Roswell Park Board of Directors Chair Leecia Eve, Esq. “Our community inspires in us the drive to be the best resource and partner we can be for our neighbors, our friends, our family, and this achievement is a testament to how deeply Roswell Park commits to that pledge.”

Infographic for Roswell ParkNya-weh Skeno — I am Thankful you are well — is a traditional Seneca greeting. Being a cancer survivor is a learning process for whoever is diagnosed with any and all types of this disease. Our families in this area of Western New York, which includes my home of the Seneca Nation, are in an area that has higher rates of cancer than the national average,” says Todd Gates, Turtle clan member from the Seneca Nation and former President of the Seneca Nation. “We are fortunate to have Roswell Park in our area. Not only for the research that is critical but the understanding of education and outreach programs for our communities. Access to screening in underserved areas and early diagnosis of cancer will result in better outcomes for us all.”

“Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center provides state-of-the-art care to all that come through its doors,” says U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. “This recognition is well deserved and truly an honor. I am proud to consistently fight to get Roswell the resources it needs to continue providing this level of care to its patients.”

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“Nearly everyone in Western New York can tell a story of how they or a loved one have been touched by Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center,” says Congressman Tim Kennedy. “The heroes at Roswell Park are changing lives every day, so this designation from the National Cancer Institute should come as no surprise — it’s a reflection of the incredible work that has gone on here for over a century. I know that Roswell’s most impressive accomplishments are yet to come and this award from the NCI will help to bring that day about sooner. Congratulations to Dr. Johnson and the entire team.”

“We have seven National Cancer Institute-designated Cancer Centers here in New York State and I am proud to see this level of distinguished excellence through the Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, a flagship model for all other centers through cutting-edge technology, research and care, and a place where patients and families can have increased hope for positive outcomes,” says New York State Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald.

“I offer my sincere congratulations to our friends at Roswell Park for earning the ‘Exceptional’ rating and maintaining its Comprehensive Cancer Center designation from the National Cancer Institute,” says New York State Senator Sean Ryan. “For decades, Roswell Park has been among the premier cancer centers in the country, advancing cancer research while providing first-rate care to patients here in Western New York. We are fortunate to have such a fine medical institution and steadfast partner to the community in the City of Buffalo.” Roswell Park, founded in 1898 by Dr. Roswell Park as the first U.S. center dedicated to cancer research, remains the only NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center in all of Western and Upstate New York. 

are distinguished by their leadership in research to develop new and better approaches to preventing, diagnosing and treating cancer, and for their role in training tomorrow’s cancer research and treatment specialists. NCI Comprehensive Cancer Centers like Roswell Park — only 57 centers among more than 1,500 nationally — meet an even more exacting standard for leadership, resources, access to funding, collaboration, impact on health equity, multidisciplinary care, innovation in clinical trials, community outreach and scope of research. 

Working collaboratively, the centers that hold this designation make up an elite network that advances new areas of cancer research, expanding patients’ access to innovative cancer treatments. Numerous studies show that patients treated at NCI-Comprehensive Cancer Centers experience significantly better clinical outcomes and survival. 

The NCI also looks at the technologies and resources a cancer center equips its teams with. Roswell Park’s shared resources include precision medicine tools that identify genetic characteristics unique to each individual; flow and image cytometry to document treatment effectiveness; highly specialized imaging and profiling equipment supporting identification of new biomarkers; and bioinformatics support to capture and interpret vast amounts of data.

“It’s never just one research area or one center working on its own,” says Dr. Johnson. “You can do so much more when you integrate resources and consciously work to bridge gaps and meet needs — that’s how you make real progress against cancer.”

Roswell Park’s CCSG program documents growth across four main areas — Cancer Stress Biology, Developmental Therapeutics, Population Sciences and Tumor Immunology & Immunotherapy — and also charts a plan for further achievement. Since its previous NCI Core Grant was awarded, Roswell Park demonstrated growth in personnel, research and numbers of community members served. 

In its successful application for renewal, Roswell Park showcased across-the-board growth in every metric, demonstrating significant depth and breadth across every program area. From 2018 to 2023:

  • Number of patients served increased 26%
  • Clinical activities grew by 51%?
  • Education/outreach services were provided to more than 14,000 community members at elevated risk for cancer
  • Number of patients enrolled on clinical trials assessing new therapies or treatment strategies increased 53% ?
  • Number of cancer screening/early detection procedures increased 86%?
  • Staffing across the center grew 22%, with nurse staffing up 47%? and all clinical staffing up 28%
  • People from underrepresented communities now make up 27% of staff in leadership positions, and more than half of clinical and scientific trainees
  • Grant funding went up 50% to nearly $79 million, with 74% of those funds awarded through competitive NCI awards
  • 29% of published studies are in top-tier, high impact journals — up nearly 20 percentage points?

ճ, part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), is the federal government’s principal agency for cancer research and training. The NCI leads, conducts and supports cancer research across the nation to advance scientific knowledge and help all people live longer, healthier lives.

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