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What Does it Mean to be an NCI-Designated Comprehensive Cancer Center?

National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers are an elite group of cancer centers that are recognized by the National Cancer Institute for their demonstrated excellence inNCI - Designated Comprehensive Cancer Center cancer research, patient care, education, and community outreach. There are only 51 NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers in the country; UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, in partnership with the University of Pittsburgh, is the only one in western Pennsylvania and one of only three in the state.

A 2015 study of individuals with newly diagnosed, adult-onset cancer showed that patients who received treatment from a Comprehensive Cancer Center had better outcomes than those treated at cancer centers without this designation. Being an NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center means that cancer treatment at Hillman is based on the latest advances in clinical care, backed by evidence-based research. It also means that Hillman is committed to reducing the burden of cancer in the communities that we serve.

What is the National Cancer Institute?

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). It is the federal government’s primary agency for cancer research and training, and is the largest funder of cancer research in the world. Through its Cancer Centers Program, the NCI provides grant funding to select cancer centers throughout the country that have demonstrated the willingness and capability to advance cancer research, education, and clinical care.

How Did Hillman Become a Comprehensive Cancer Center?

Hillman has been an NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center since 1990. Every five years, Hillman undergoes a rigorous and intensive evaluation of our research programs and related activities, like our community outreach and education efforts, and the impact they have on cancer prevention, detection, treatment, and survivorship. Preparation for this assessment, which is required to maintain our designation and continue receiving grant funds, can take as long as one year and involves researchers, physicians, and administrators from UPMC Hillman Cancer Center and the University of Pittsburgh.

What Does Cancer Research Do for Patients?

Research can change how we diagnose, treat, and prevent cancer and care for cancer survivors. Hillman’s research teams include doctors and scientists from many disciplines, all working together to explore:

  • Cancer cells and how they behave
  • How psychological, behavioral, and social factors impact cancer
  • Who gets cancer, and how we can prevent it
  • The immune system and its role in cancer development and treatment
  • How viruses can both cause and fight cancer
  • New cancer drugs and therapies 

Because Hillman’s doctors and scientists work together, research can move from our laboratories into our clinics quickly. This means that patients can have access to cutting-edge care – including more than 450 clinical trials – sooner, and right here in our local communities.

While Hillman’s research benefits thousands of people in the communities we serve, it also benefits people facing cancer around the world. Our researchers share their findings with colleagues at other cancer centers to advance cancer treatment for everyone. Learn more about Hillman’s research, education and community outreach programs.