UH Cancer Center renews NCI designation

July 3, 2018

HONOLULU - The University of Hawaiʻi Cancer Center successfully competed for renewal of National Cancer Institute (NCI) designation, and has been awarded a $6 million Cancer Center Support Grant to fund research at the Center.

“I am extremely pleased that the National Cancer Institute has recognized the unique contributions of the University of Hawaiʻi Cancer Center, and rewarded the efforts of the incredible faculty by continuing the NCI designation,” said Randall Holcombe, MD, MBA, UH Cancer Center director. “For Hawaiʻi, this means that our family and friends have access to cutting-edge cancer treatments and the highest quality of cancer care.”

“The people of Hawaiʻi are the greatest beneficiaries of NCI designation, which brings research directed toward the cancer problems specific for our diverse ethnic population and access to the most up-to-date approaches for cancer prevention and treatment. The University of Hawaiʻi Cancer Center is a great resource for the State of Hawaiʻi. Its discoveries will help improve patient outcomes for people faced with a cancer diagnosis not just in our state, but across the nation,” said Governor David Y. Ige.

Dr. Randall Holcombe, UH Cancer Center director
Dr. Randall Holcombe,
UH Cancer Center director

The new Cancer Center Support Grant from the NCI begins on July 1, 2018. Of more than 1,000 cancer centers across the country, the UH Cancer Center is one of only 70 NCI-Designated Cancer Centers in the nation.

The UH Cancer Center was established by the University of Hawaiʻi, Mānoa in 1981 and achieved NCI designation and funding in 1996, an honor it has held continuously since that time. NCI-Designated Cancer Centers must go through rigorous and competitive renewal of their status every three to five years.

The designation provides opportunities for the UH Cancer Center to continue its mission to reduce the burden of cancer through research, education, patient care and community outreach with an emphasis on the unique ethnic, cultural and environmental characteristics of Hawaiʻi and the Pacific.

“The UH Cancer Center keeps treatment in reach for many people in our state. It is also the only institution in the country researching cancer health disparities in the Native Hawaiian and Asian American communities,” said Senator Brian Schatz, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee. “With this designation, our state will have the resources we need to research, help patients, and fight for a cure.”

“The UH Cancer Center continues to serve as a national leader in research, prevention, and education efforts, especially on how cancer affects Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander populations. As one of only 70 National Cancer Institute-designated cancer centers in the country, the renewal of the NCI designation will enable researchers to continue their important work that will benefit cancer patients in Hawaiʻi and across the country,” said Senator Mazie K. Hirono.

The designation has helped Cancer Center researchers make seminal advances into the understanding of the molecular basis for cancer, the identification of disparities in cancer incidence and mortality within our diverse population, engagement of the community in cancer prevention initiatives and coordination of clinical trials for cancer patients through the UH Cancer Center clinical trials network that includes the Hawaiʻi Cancer Consortium.

“The University of Hawaiʻi Cancer Center is as a life-changing resource for the people of Hawaiʻi and the Pacific, conducting cutting edge research that is furthering our knowledge and understanding of cancer in our region, and improving patient care, treatment, education, and community outreach. The renewal of the Center’s NCI designation provides recognition of the Center’s exceptional advances that will continue to serve the people of Hawaiʻi,” said U.S. Representative Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02).

In the last five years, more than 1,600 people have participated in UH Cancer Center sponsored clinical research studies, ranging from studies on how diet and the environment may influence the development of cancer to novel treatment interventions for patients with advanced cancer.

“The University of Hawaiʻi is delighted to have the National Cancer Institute renew our designation as an NCI Cancer Center. This provides well-deserved external validation and national recognition of the important work we are doing and our path forward,” said UH President and UH Mānoa Interim Chancellor, David Lassner, PhD. “Over the past two years, the Cancer Center has excelled in particular in novel discovery and in translating these discoveries into advances that will help cancer patients and those at risk for this debilitating disease, and we are the only Center with the will and capacity to focus on Hawaiʻi and the Pacific. Kudos to our new Cancer Center Director, Dr. Randall Holcombe, and to all of the Center’s faculty and staff who pulled together as a team to make this recognition possible.”

The designation helps Cancer Center members bring in around $40 million per year in grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other agencies to support research activities. This funding provides nearly $90 million in economic impact for the Island of Oahu every year.

According to the NCI many cancer centers are located in communities with special needs and specific populations. As a result, these centers not only disseminate evidence-based findings into communities that can benefit from these findings, but the centers can also, through the experience of working with those patients, help inform national research and treatment priorities.

“The UH Cancer Center is an invaluable asset to the people of Hawaiʻi. The research and work being done to improve diagnoses and treatments for Native Hawaiians and Asian Americans is leading edge innovation that will benefit patients around the world. The NCI designation ensures that the UH Cancer Center will continue to be able to fulfill its mission to reduce the burden of cancer through research, education, and patient care. I am committed to supporting the UH Cancer Center’s efforts and look forward to its continued community investment,” said U.S. Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa.

“During the grant review process, the NCI noted that the community outreach and engagement by the UH Cancer Center was exceptional, with profound impact on the populations in Hawaiʻi and across the Pacific,” said Dr. Holcombe.

The grant award is supported by the National Institutes of Health under award number P30CA071789.

  1. Key UH Cancer Center studies and discoveries:
  2. The UH Cancer Center conducts the most ethnically diverse lifestyle and cancer prevention study in the world. The Multiethnic Cohort study conducted in conjunction with the University of Southern California involves 215,000 Hawaiʻi and Los Angeles residents.
  3. UH Cancer Center researchers found that Japanese, Chinese and Koreans tend to have high amounts of abdominal fat, and this type of fat is more dangerous than others in terms of certain diseases and cancers. UH Cancer Center researchers are looking for ways to help prevent abdominal fat build up.
  4. UH Cancer Center researchers are studying ways to improve colon cancer screening and prevention for Native Hawaiian Men. Native Hawaiian men have one of the highest death rates from colon cancer of any ethnic group.
  5. UH Cancer Center researchers are studying the risks of e-cigarettes on teens and young adults.
  6. UH Cancer Center researchers study plants and other natural resources native to Hawaiʻi to see if there are natural compounds that can be used to treat cancers. UH Cancer Center researchers discovered that the ironweed plant found mostly on the Hawaiʻi Island may help fight aggressive types of breast and brain cancers.
  7. Seminal advances about genes that cause cancer syndromes, such as BAP1, and genes that drive metastases, such as RSK2, have been made by UH Cancer Center researchers.
  8. The UH Cancer Center’s Hawaiʻi Tumor Registry has provided incidence and survival data on all cases of cancer in Hawaiʻi since 1973, and is a part of the national Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) Program.
  1. Key Hawai`i Cancer Statistics:
  2. More than 6,500 people are diagnosed with cancer in Hawaiʻi each year.
  3. In Hawaiʻi about 2,000 people die from the disease each year.
  4. Cancer is the 2nd leading cause of death (after cardiovascular disease) in Hawaiʻi.
  5. Mortality and incidence rates vary substantially across Hawaiʻi's racial and ethnic groups.

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