Comprehensive is in our name. But what does that mean? Comprehensive is the highest federal rating a cancer center can achieve from the National Cancer Institute, the federal agency overseeing the national cancer research effort. 

It is a gold standard of excellence, awarded only to cancer centers with the deepest and broadest knowledge of cancer. These places have strengths in all the areas of cancer research, including prevention, early detection, treatment, and survivorship. 

Out of the hundreds of thousands of facilities that specialize in cancer, only 70 are officially NCI designated. And of those, only 52 hold the special comprehensive status. This designation places us among the top tier of cancer centers in the country, and one of two in Illinois. 

Comprehensive cancer centers serve as a model for moving new discoveries from the laboratory setting to reach patients and the greater community. In order to keep this designation and funding, every NCI designated cancer center must undergo an intense review process every five years to demonstrate that it has a critical mass of high quality, collaborative research that leads to big shifts in cancer care-- strong institutional support, a highly qualified director, state-of-the-art facilities, and the ability to bring physicians and scientists from multiple disciplines together. 

For meeting all of these standards, we have earned the distinction as a Comprehensive Cancer Center. Our most recent review in 2017 earned our center an outstanding rating. This means that our patients benefit from being treated at a world-class research facility, with leading physicians and scientists who are dedicated to improving the prevention, detection and treatment of cancer in Chicago and beyond. 

Understanding the Importance of ‘Comprehensive’ in Our Name — Comprehensive Cancer Center

An official cancer center designation by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) is the highest federal rating a cancer center can achieve. It’s the gold standard for cancer programs and is bestowed upon the nation’s top cancer centers in recognition of their innovative research and leading-edge treatments. The University of Chicago Medicine has been home to such a designated center since 1973. 

In addition to this National Cancer Institute designation, UChicago Medicine is also recognized for the comprehensive nature of our research, care, education and community outreach programs. We are one of only two institutions in the state of Illinois — and 52 in the United States — to be recognized as a comprehensive cancer center. The application process alone for this honor involved a 1,700-page submission that took more than a year to prepare and must be repeated every five years for renewal.

It matters because a comprehensive cancer center must meet specific standards in its breadth and depth of cancer research. It means the University of Chicago Medicine Comprehensive Cancer Center is deemed a model for moving research discoveries, treatments and information from the research setting to our patients and the greater community, setting new standards for care. 

More importantly, however, it matters because of the impact a comprehensive cancer center can have on your care:  According to a 2015 study of individuals with newly diagnosed, adult-onset cancer, patients who were treated at a comprehensive cancer center experienced superior survival rates compared to patients treated at facilities that had not received this designation.

A comprehensive cancer center offers many benefits, including that it:

  • Has already demonstrated, during an intense review process, that it has a critical mass of high-quality collaborative research, strong institutional support, a highly qualified director, appropriate facilities and the capacity to fulfill its research objectives
  • Takes a leadership role in developing new approaches and strategies for preventing and treating cancer
  • Delivers scientific and medical advances to cancer patients, their families, the general public and underserved populations 
  • Instructs health care professionals in a variety of settings, thereby sharing the latest medical and scientific advances with the broader public
  • Taps the latest scientific research to better identify and develop interventions for individuals who are at a high risk for cancer because of genetic, behavioral and environmental factors
  • Seeks to educate all, and in particular those with an elevated risk for cancer, on the importance of a healthy lifestyle and early detection of cancer 

As a designated comprehensive cancer center, UChicago Medicine receives approximately $4 million in annual funding from the National Cancer Institute. This funding supports the infrastructure, management and initiatives that allow us to bring together cancer physicians and scientists from multiple disciplines to make important advances in cancer research and care. This ensures we are national leaders in clinical studies and that we can offer a robust clinical trials program with cancer studies open for enrollment

UChicago Medicine's Comprehensive Cancer Center is proud to be among an elite group of cancer centers acknowledged as the nation’s leaders in the fight against cancer.