About NCI Designation

As part of the National Institutes of Health, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) recognizes cancer programs that are national leaders in cancer research, treatment, and education.

NCI designation is considered the gold standard that defines broad excellence in oncology. Such cancer centers are a major source of discovery of the nature of cancer and of the development of more effective approaches to cancer prevention, diagnosis, and therapy.

They also deliver medical advances to patients and their families, educate health care professionals and the public, and reach out to under-served populations

What sets an NCI-designated Cancer Center apart from other institutions?

The six essential characteristics of an NCI-designated cancer center include:

  • Facilities: Physical facilities are dedicated to cancer-focused research and to the center’s shared resources, administration, and research dissemination efforts.
  • Organizational capabilities: The center is organized to take maximum advantage of institutional capabilities in cancer research and to plan appropriately and evaluate center strategies and activities.
  • Transdisciplinary collaboration and coordination: Substantial coordination, interaction, and collaboration among cancer center members from a variety of disciplines enhance and add value to the productivity and quality of research in the center.
  • Cancer focus: A defined scientific focus on cancer research is clear from the center members’ grants and contracts, and from the structure and objectives of its formal programs.
  • Institutional commitment: The center is recognized as a formal organizational component with space, positions and discretionary resources.
  • Center director: The director is a highly qualified scientist and administrator with leadership experience and institutional authority to manage the center and further its scientific mission and objectives.

What does it take to earn NCI designation?

A cancer center must prove itself capable of making a major contribution to cancer research. Earning NCI designation is an intensive process that usually takes years to attain.

All NCI-designated cancer centers receive substantial financial support from NCI grants and are re-evaluated each time their cancer center support grant comes up for renewal (generally every three to five years).

These awards fund formal research programs that foster interactions between basic laboratory, clinical, and population scientists; access for investigators to shared services and technologies that are necessary to their research efforts; and other scientific infrastructure.

What does NCI designation mean to patients?

Patients receiving care at an NCI-designated cancer center are the first in line for the newest, most promising therapies and laboratory findings. They have more opportunities to take part in clinical trials that test new treatments, and they are able to receive individualized care much closer to home.

NCI designation press release