Evers on Impact of NCI Designation

University of Kentucky Markey Cancer Center Director B. Mark Evers, MD, FACS, used the example of his National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated center to extol the benefits to patients, physicians, researchers, trainees and institutions when a state university earns this premiere NCI recognition.

Evers shared that experience, along with a discussion of his research on the gut hormone neurotensin, as the featured speaker for the University of Illinois Cancer Center Distinguished Lecture Series held May 24 at Moss Auditorium on the campus of the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC).

Invited to Apply

The University of Illinois Cancer Center has been enthusiastically invited to apply for NCI designation in 2024 after decades of work building and supporting successful research programs and strong bidirectional community outreach and engagement initiatives to create equitable precision oncology that serves, and is accessible to, diverse communities in Cook County and throughout the state.

Currently there are 72 NCI-designated cancer centers in the United States, a program created as part of the National Cancer Act of 1971 and signed into law by President Richard Nixon. 

UK Markey’s Journey

Evers, who was recruited to Markey in 2009, detailed Markey’s journey over 25 years to achieve NCI designation, which they earned in 2013. Markey’s catchment area is the entire state of Kentucky, which has a population of 4.4 million.

The impact of Markey’s NCI designation a decade ago includes setting up an affiliate network of 19 independently operated hospitals throughout the state, which Evers called “tremendous” because about half of all new Kentucky cancer cases are taken care of directly at Markey or indirectly at their affiliates. In 2020, patients came from all 120 Kentucky counties and patients from 108 of Kentucky’s 120 counties are enrolled in clinical trials. Outpatient clinical volume has doubled and a new $300 million building for ambulatory and surgical care is being built.

Impact of NCI Designation

Evers talked about Markey’s success in lung cancer screening rates and faster declines in rates of late-stage lung cancer diagnoses. An NCI-funded training and mentoring program also has impacted the lives of Appalachian undergraduate and high school students, some of whom went on to medical school.

“This is on your horizon,” he said of the University of Illinois Cancer Center.

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