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Lacks Cancer Center at Saint Mary's Health Care joins National Cancer Institute Program

Lacks Cancer Center at Saint Mary's Health Care joins National Cancer Institute Program to enhance cancer research and care at community hospitals

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The Lacks Cancer Center at Saint Mary's Health Care is among 14 new sites chosen by the National Cancer Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health, to join a national network of community cancer centers offering expanded research opportunities and state-of-the-art cancer care at hospitals serving largely rural, suburban, small-town, and underserved urban populations.

The NCI Community Cancer Centers Program (NCCCP) is using $40 million in funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to expand its number of community hospital-based sites from 16 to 30. The Lacks Cancer Center has been awarded a $2.38 million contract from the NCCCP program to be used for cancer research and cancer care improvement.

NCCCP is designed to create new research opportunities across the cancer continuum from screening and treatment to follow-up care, with an emphasis on minority and underserved populations. Expanding the NCCCP network will provide access to more patients in community cancer centers to support these research efforts.

In addition, the program is studying ways for patients to have access to the latest, evidence-based care close to where they live. For a variety of reasons, many cancer patients cannot commute to major academic medical centers for treatment. In fact, 85 percent of patients are diagnosed, and receive at least their first course of treatment, at a community hospital.

NCCCP centers are addressing ways to reduce healthcare disparities, improve access to clinical trials, improve overall quality of care, promote an infrastructure to collect high-quality biospecimens such as blood and tissue samples for research, and link with national computer networks that support research. The centers also work to improve survivorship, palliative care services, and patient advocacy.

The Lacks Cancer Center is one of only two Michigan hospitals achieving this distinction. The other is St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in Ann Arbor, which is also a Trinity Health hospital. Both hospitals are members of the Mercy Cancer Network.