Breaking Down the CCSG: An Overview of the Cancer Center Support Grant

Ashley Toy
January 22nd, 2019

For those familiar with the Cancer Center Support Grant (CCSG), it can be a complex and oftentimes confusing subject. For those unfamiliar with the CCSG, it may be even more difficult to get a baseline understanding of what the grant is and the criteria for receiving it. This article is designed to help give you some background on the CCSG. While definitely not exhaustive, it’s a good starting point if you’re just getting acquainted with the grant and its requirements.

NCI Definition of the CCSG

According to the National Cancer Institute (NCI) website, the CCSG is defined as “Funds awarded to certain U.S. institutions by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) for them to become cancer centers in the United States, based on scientific merit. The funds help the cancer centers improve the way they are run and develop new ways to prevent, diagnose, and treat cancer. To receive the award, one goal of the cancer center must be to turn clinical and basic research into better health care. Also called P30 Cancer Center Support Grant.”

This definition raises some more questions about the grant, like what does ‘scientific merit’ involve? Or how do centers turn clinical and basic research into better health care? To answer these questions, we’ll take a look at a few different topics: the six essential characteristics of a cancer center, and some of the major components of the grant itself.

Six Essential Characteristics

In order to receive a CCSG, a cancer center needs to exhibit the following six essential characteristics:

  1. Cancer Focus: An organization’s grant portfolio of the funding they receive from the NCI or other major national organizations must clearly demonstrate that they are focused on cancer research.
  2. Cancer Director: The director of a cancer center should be a person that has participated in research and has been a part of all of the center’s portfolio. Additionally, the director should build the organization holistically through their own experiences.
  3. Institutional Commitment: Most cancer centers are a part of a larger organization, oftentimes a university. What a cancer center receives from their university should demonstrate that cancer research is a major focus and one of the top priorities of the institution. The highest leaders of the institution should be dedicated to the cancer focus and empower the cancer center director to pursue this mission.
  4. Organizational Capabilities: Similarly, the cancer center is expected to take advantage of the resources available to them through their larger organization when conducting cancer research. This is taken into consideration for the CCSG.
  5. Physical Space: The physical research facilities, including wet lab space, trial space and clinical space are an important part of the center as well. These spaces should be able to maximize the scientific achievements of the center’s researchers.
  6. Transdisciplinary Collaboration and Coordination: A cancer center consists of a number of different research programs. Collaboration and coordination between researchers in different programs are a key component of a successful center.

Major Components of CCSG

In addition to the six essential characteristics of the cancer center itself, the CCSG includes several other major components that centers must have in order to be considered for receiving the grant.

  • Researchers: It may go without saying, but researchers are one of the most important components of the CCSG. The researchers, or members, of a cancer center are what make up its body of cancer research and its scientific breakthroughs.
  • Research Programs: A research program is a group of researchers that share a common scientific interest and goal that participates in peer-reviewed, funded research. The CCSG requires a center has at least one research program, but most have more. Programs should foster high levels of interaction, resulting in an exchange of ideas and promoting collaboration and coordination.
  • Shared Resources: Also known as cores, shared resources provide access to specialized technology, services or expertise that enhance scientific interaction and productivity or feasibility for members. It allows members to get access to new and exciting technology without having to fully invest in it at an individual level. Again, the CCSG requires at least one shared resource, but centers often have more.
  • Data Tables: Data Tables are intended to itemize the center’s formal research programs, shared resources, base of funded research projects, patient information, clinical research protocols, and a comparison of current and requested budgets. There are five different types of data tables (1, 2A, 2B, 3 and 4) that all detail different areas of a cancer center’s research.
  • Clinical Protocol and Data Management (CPDM): CPDM is the centralized management and oversight function for coordinating, facilitating and reporting on clinical trials within a cancer center. It provides a centralized database of protocol-specific data. This requirement also includes stipulations for Data and Safety Monitoring (DSM) and inclusion of women, minorities and children in clinical research.
  • Protocol Review and Monitoring System (PRMS): The purpose of PRMS is to provide review of scientific merit and assurance of adequate internal oversight of protocols being conducted by the center, and to terminate protocols not reaching accrual goals.
  • Education & Training: Also known as Cancer Research Career Enhancement, this component coordinates existing activity focused on research education and training and showcases how a center is committed to education and career enhancement of young scientists entering the field, and the discoveries they impact.
  • Catchment Area: The catchment area of a center refers to the unique attributes of your center in relation to cancer incidence and mortality, racial and ethnic distribution, and urban or rural populations. Demonstrating the accruals and impact of clinical trials within a center’s catchment area is important to the CCSG.
  • Community Outreach and Engagement: The Community Outreach and Engagement requirement goes beyond the impact of clinical trials on a center’s catchment area to include how the center’s research and findings affect the catchment area and beyond. How the center is affecting health disparities and policy are two ways the Community Outreach and Engagement requirement can be considered.

This breakdown of the CCSG, while far from exhaustive, is still a lot of information. So why would a center go through this process? Besides the obvious need for additional research funding, receiving a CCSG also means that a center is “NCI designated”. This means that the center is part of a prestigious group of cancer centers nationwide to have gone through the rigorous process of applying for and receiving a Cancer Center Support Grant, and that their research is considered to be some of the best and most impactful in the nation. They are then required to go through annual reporting and renewal requirements, along with what’s called a competitive renewal every five years to go through the full application process over again.

With the breadth and depth of requirements for a CCSG, it’s no surprise the process can be difficult and confusing. Technology solutions like Forte’s Research Evaluation System (EVAL) can help in gathering data and generating reports for a CCSG application.