LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The National Cancer Institute, a component of the National Institutes of Health, has awarded the James Graham Brown Cancer Center at the University of Louisville a planning grant to prepare for Comprehensive Cancer Center status. Achieving NCI Comprehensive Cancer Center designation is a main goal of the 1998 Challenge for Excellence and could bring increased research funding and cancer treatment options to Louisville.

    “Receiving a planning grant is an endorsement from the NCI of our long-range plan to attain this prestigious designation,” explained Dr. Donald Miller, director of the center. “It tells us that we are on the right track — but also reminds us that we have much work to do.”

    Since Miller came to U of L in 1999, cancer research funding at the center has grown more than 50-fold. In order to attain NCI Comprehensive Cancer Center status, centers must demonstrate excellence in basic research, clinical research and prevention/control research.

    “We certainly have all the pieces in place to rise to the top very quickly,” said Dr. Joel Kaplan, dean of the U of L School of Medicine. “Don’s leadership and our excellent basic research program are advantages. The new cancer hospital partnership with Norton Healthcare will have a tremendous positive impact on our clinical research, and our close relationship with the Kentucky Cancer Program has given us a ‘leg-up’ in prevention and control studies.

    “It’s really an exciting time for the entire Louisville Medical Center.”

    The new grant and potential for NCI recognition will most benefit the patients of Kentucky and the region, however. Kentucky leads the nation in death rates for lung cancer and is among the states with the highest incidence of all new cancers and cancer deaths. Kentucky also reports high levels of cancer risk behaviors such as smoking, obesity and sedentary lifestyles.

    “It is especially important that Kentucky have the best resources for cancer research, care and prevention considering the state’s cancer health crisis,” Kaplan continued. “As a leading academic health center located in the state’s largest city, it is crucial that we take the lead in these efforts.”

    The planning grant awards the center more than $250,000 per year for five years, totaling more than $1.3 million overall. The funds will be used mostly for recruitment and consultant costs involved in planning efforts.