[Q&A] Examining the NCI Cancer Center Support Grant

Regina Schwind
February 24th, 2017

During her recent webinar, “Examining the NCI Cancer Center Support Grant,” Regina Schwind of Forte Research Systems discussed the clinical research components of National Cancer Institute (NCI) designation. As a follow-up, here she answers attendee questions regarding the NCI CCSG application and renewal process, NCI considerations for designation, and more.


Does geographical region impact a center’s chances of becoming designated?  It seems the CCSG centers are concentrated along the coasts, and there is a scarcity of centers in the Midwest.


As a national organization, the NCI, and many other organizations like the National Academy of Medicine, aims to ensure access to quality cancer care for all Americans. Geographic location is not a formal element of obtaining NCI designation. However, while unstated, the physical location of a cancer center may positively impact its chances for designation. This may be the case if the center is in an area that is particularly far from other NCI-designated centers, or if the geographical location serves an area that is particularly affected by health disparities. It is known that there are geographical variations in cancer incidence and mortality, so if a center serves a special or diverse population, that center’s research may inform scientists across the nation and beyond. The overarching goal for all cancer centers is to meet the needs of the population that they serve. NCI refers to this as the “catchment area” of the center. Finally, NCI also allows consortia to be supported by the CCSG. Partnerships between research institutions located in areas not currently served by an NCI-designated center are encouraged.


Is there any patient involvement or engagement in center strategy or operations, as is seen in PCORI grants?

Watch the on-demand recording of Regina’s presentation, “Examining the NCI Cancer Center Support Grant.”

While cancer centers are primarily responsible for providing infrastructure and resources to advance scientific research and treatment against cancer, centers are also responsible for serving their communities. The NCI refers to the geographic area surrounding the location of the center as its “catchment area.”  This catchment area is defined on a population basis. One particular component of the CCSG is called “Community Outreach and Engagement.” This section is a required component for both comprehensive and clinical centers. It is an optional component for basic centers. In this section, the Center discusses how it engages populations for clinical research, as well as how it implements public health recommendations, such as HPV vaccination and smoking cessation.


What is the purpose of an External Advisory Board?


Cancer centers generally utilize an external advisory board, or “EAB,” to ensure appropriate progress is made towards meeting the center’s goals as well as the metrics and requirements of maintaining NCI designation. The EAB should visit the center at least once annually and provide objective feedback on basic, clinical, and population sciences, center administration, and clinical trials. The EAB visit should be summarized in a formal report to the center director.


Does the CCSG need to be renewed or is it a one-time designation process?


Once a center obtains NCI designation via the CCSG, they hold the designation for a limited time. The CCSG grant cycle is 5 years. Prior to the end of each grant cycle, the center is responsible for submitting a re-competing application to NCI.

Learn more

Submitting grant applications to the NCI can be a difficult process when required information isn’t adequately stored and organized. Forte’s Research Evaluation System (EVAL) relieves the burden by storing information related to investigators, grants, projects, publications, services, and success stories in one location. To learn more about how Forte EVAL can make NCI grant application easier and more efficient for your organization.

For more information about NCI designation and the CCSG, visit NCI’s website.

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