Siteman Cancer Center advances to NCI’s comprehensive status, gets $21 million

The Siteman Cancer Center at Washington University School of Medicine and Barnes-Jewish Hospital has joined the highest ranking cancer research and treatment institutions with a designation by the National Cancer Institute as a Comprehensive Cancer Center. This distinction recognizes Siteman’s broad-based research, outreach and education activities, and provides Siteman with research funding of $21 million.

Center for Advanced Medicine, home of Siteman Cancer Center
Center for Advanced Medicine, home of Siteman Cancer Center

“This designation is acknowledgement that the people of the St. Louis region have access to novel cancer therapies and cutting-edge research,” says Timothy J. Eberlein, M.D., director of the Siteman Cancer Center. “It also adds to the $130 million in cancer research grants already held by researchers and clinicians affiliated with Siteman. This research will lead to improved strategies for cancer prevention, detection and treatment and help reduce the burden of cancer locally and nationally.”

To achieve comprehensive status, a cancer center must succeed in a rigorous multi-stage review process. Siteman was awarded comprehensive status because of its strong basic science and clinical trial research programs; programs in cancer prevention, cancer control, and population-based research; and a body of interactive research bridging these areas. It was also recognized for its outreach and education for residents of the St. Louis region and for health-care professionals.

Since its inception in 1999, Siteman has provided the most effective, up-to-date care to people of the surrounding community and nationwide. It is the only NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center within a 240-mile radius. In just the past year alone, the more than 300 Washington University physicians affiliated with Siteman cared for nearly 6,000 new and 30,000 follow-up cancer patients, and they conducted more than 350 clinical trials.

“In conferring comprehensive status on Siteman, the NCI honors the dedication and hard-work of our staff—the researchers, clinicians, and others whose efforts make Siteman such an important resource for those affected by cancer,” says Eberlein. “We are pleased to have attained this level of recognition and are committed to offering a full complement of programs and the highest level of care for patients in this region of the country.”

Eberlein, the Spencer T. and Ann W. Olin Distinguished Professor and Bixby Professor and head of the Department of Surgery, became director of the Siteman Cancer Center in 1999 when St. Louisans Alvin J. and Ruth Siteman committed $35 million to Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University to advance cancer research and treatment.

In 2001, Siteman moved into the newly built Center for Advanced Medicine at the corner of Forest Park Boulevard and Euclid Avenue in St. Louis. Here outpatients receive evaluation and treatment by an integrated, multidisciplinary team of surgeons, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, specialized nurses and others. This year, Siteman also gained new research space on the top floors of the Barnes-Jewish Hospital Southwest Tower in the heart of Washington University Medical Center. This facility includes laboratories, offices and support areas for Siteman research teams.

Siteman received NCI designation as a Cancer Center in August 2001, which signaled that the center had demonstrated significant scope and quality in its cancer research programs. That designation brought with it $850,000 per year in federal grant monies to fund research within Siteman. Siteman now has received a five-year extension of its cancer center support grant with a total of $21 million in new federal funding.

Siteman’s goals mesh with Washington University’s strategic research initiative BioMed 21, which aims to translate basic genetic data into new therapies.

Siteman assures access to treatment options based upon the most advanced scientific knowledge for the St. Louis community. Program areas study cancer at its roots, investigating the genetic and cellular processes that initiate and foster cancerous growth as well as identifying human genetic defects associated with distinct malignancies. New therapies are engineered through understanding the body’s immune response to cancer and by investigating the biology of stem cells of the bone marrow. Research groups work to develop new imaging techniques for cancer detection and monitoring. One program strives to move research findings from the laboratory to the clinical setting and another group focuses on smoking prevention and cessation, early detection and chemoprevention.

Siteman contains 12 care centers, each with unique approaches to particular cancers, including breast, gastrointestinal tract, lung and urologic cancers and leukemia and lymphoma. Its bone marrow transplant program is among the most respected in the nation. Using the clinical research office at Siteman, physicians may also refer patients to clinical trials that offer the latest experimental drugs and surgical techniques. In 2004, Siteman was ranked 13th among cancer centers by U.S. News and World Report.

A broad range of support services are available to maintain the mental, social and spiritual well-being of patients and family members. The Barnard Health and Cancer Information Center at Siteman offers current information on prevention; early cancer detection, diagnosis and treatment; coping; and community resources. An ongoing emphasis of the center is to build programs aimed at early detection of cancer through community outreach.

Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis
Barnes-Jewish Hospital, Member BJC HealthCare

The Siteman Cancer Center brings together the faculty and staff of leading medical institutions. Washington University is one of the leading medical research, teaching, and patient care institutions in the nation, currently ranked second in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Barnes-Jewish Hospital (linked to BJC Healthcare) is ranked eighth of all hospitals nationally in the same report. St. Louis Children’s Hospital is a top pediatric hospital.