Columbia St. Mary's Cancer Centers Awarded Stimulus Funding to Expand Research Opportunities that Benefit Cancer Patients

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Milwaukee, WI, April 21, 2010 — Columbia St. Mary’s is pleased to announce that it is the recipient of a $364,000 research subcontract from the National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the National Institutes of Health. The monies, made available from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), are designated to expand research benefiting patients at Columbia St. Mary’s Cancer Centers over the next two years.

Columbia St. Mary’s was the only health system in Wisconsin, and one of only 16 nationally that launched the National Community Cancer Centers Program (NCCCP) in 2007. With ARRA funds, the network is growing to 30 sites in 22 states.

Columbia St. Mary’s Cancer Centers will use its funding to:

  • Determine the impact of Multidisciplinary Care (MDC) teams on the processes and outcomes of cancer care, a collaborative project with other Ascension Health sites. This will include the MDC program already in place for breast cancer patients, and others being developed.
  • Develop and implement ever more effective strategies and programs to continue to reach underserved patient populations in the community.
  • Implement a program to increase the number of patients who receive necessary genetic counseling or assessment, including an on-site counselor.

The NCCCP is a network of community-hospital cancer centers that is working to provide research-based cancer care spanning the full cancer continuum – from prevention, screening, diagnosis, treatment, and survivorship through end-of-life care. The program is designed as a community-based platform to support basic, clinical and population-based research initiatives.

“We are extremely pleased to have been awarded these research subcontracts by the NCI. This funding allows us to continue and expand the important work we have begun as an NCCCP research site,” said Laura Potts, Ed.D., FACHE, Executive Director of Oncology Services for Columbia St. Mary’s Cancer Centers.

NCCCP began in 2007 with 16 hospital-based community cancer centers in 14 states. The expansion uses approximately $40 million of ARRA funds to support additional research opportunities within the original network of 16 NCCCP sites and another $40 million of ARRA funds to expand the network to include 14 new community cancer centers in eight new states.

The 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 with provide access to more patients in community cancer centers to support basic, translational, clinical, and population-based research toward effective new prevention strategies and treatments for cancer patients.

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 to link with national computer networks that support research. The centers also work to improve survivorship, palliative care services, and patient advocacy.

“A vital part of Columbia St. Mary’s mission is to reach the disparate populations in our area. With the NCI funding, we can continue to make inroads with free breast cancer screenings that have already allowed us to find and diagnose cancer in women who might otherwise go without treatment,” Potts said. “Also, our relationship with the NCI will give our patients access to important breast and lung cancer clinical trials that we would not have had in the past.”

For more information about the program and a map of the NCCCP network, see



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