10 Universities in Cancer Research

Cancer is a terrifying diagnosis given to over 1.68 million people in the United States annually according to the NIH National Cancer Institute. Uncontrolled growth of malignant cells most commonly causes skin, lung, prostate, breast, colorectal, and brain cancer as well as rarer types like angiosarcoma and chordoma. Although great strides have been made in radiation, chemotherapy, and surgical treatments, cancer remains a leading cause of death claiming an estimated 595,690 Americans’ lives each year. Billions of dollars are invested into scientific experiments in hopes of reducing this mortality rate with a cure. In no particular order, the following are 10 top-notch universities pioneering the way with cutting-edge cancer research.

1. University of Chicago

Established in 1973, the University of Chicago Medicine Comprehensive Cancer Center is an NCI-designated institute enrolling over 1,000 patients in clinical trials every year. Its 210 renowned scientists, including Nobel Laureates, have made major healthcare breakthroughs, such as identifying the first chromosomal abnormality in leukemia patients. UChicago was given the American College of Surgeons’ (ACS) highest accreditation with commendation in 2011. The CCC’s 1.2-million-square-foot facility features a leading 28-bed stem cell and bone marrow transplant unit. Major research endeavors are underway in the Hematological Malignancies, Immunology, Pharmacogenomics, and Advanced Imaging divisions.

2. Johns Hopkins University

In Baltimore, the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins University conducts world-class research on the best therapies for cancer. Located in the Bunting Blaustein Building since 2000, the center has employed award-winning clinicians like Nobel Laureate Carol Greider and Presidential Medal of Freedom winner Ben Carson. Recent discoveries have included a drug for high-risk leukemia and gene-based tests for hereditary cancers. The NCI-designated institute houses a 39-suite Hackerman-Patz Patient and Family Pavilion for numerous clinical trials. Johns Hopkins also confers an elite ACGME-accredited Hematology & Medical Oncology Fellowship.

3. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Affiliated with five Nobel Laureates, the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has become a prestigious, NCI-designated center since opening in 2010. In Cambridge, its 50 laboratories employ more than 1,000 researchers for five target areas: Nanotechnology, Cancer Detection & Monitoring, Metastasis, Personalized Medicine, and Immunology. The 20,000-square-foot Swanson Biotechnology Center is particularly notable for its transgenic work. Recent discoveries include a drug for triple-negative breast cancer and injectable nanoparticles for urinary biomarkers. Director Tyler Jacks started a Bridge Project to connect with Harvard’s Dana-Farber Center too.

4. Stanford University

Awarded NCI designation in 2007, the Stanford Cancer Institute in the Silicon Valley draws over 400 accomplished faculty to the Lorry Lokey Stem Cell Building. The SCI sparks scientific discovery by translating technological innovation into cancer therapies. Led by Lloyd Minor, MD, the institute has over 250 actively recruiting clinical trials. One recently yielded Tirapazamine, an experimental anti-cancer drug. In 1960, Stanford University was also the site of the West Coast’s first kidney transplant by Dr. Roy Barnett Cohn. Inspired scientists following in his footsteps could pursue the SCI’s esteemed Cancer Biology Ph.D. Program.

5. University of Pennsylvania

The Abramson Family Cancer Research Institute at the University of Pennsylvania is a leading, NCI-designated center established in 2002 that’s been visited by Vice President Joe Biden. Its 314 faculty researchers span 47 departments to spearhead efforts in four primary areas: Cellular Transformation, Tumorigenesis, Translational Research, and Cancer Prevention. The AFCRI is well-known for discovering the Philadelphia Chromosome, the breast cancer drug Herceptin, and transoral robotic surgery (TORS) for head or neck cancers. Several members have earned the R35 Outstanding Investigator Award. Survivors are also assisted with UPenn’s unique Living Well After Cancer program.

6. Indiana University

At the Indianapolis campus, the Indiana University School of Medicine created the Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center in 2006 for translational research. Collaboratively partnered with Purdue, the NCI-designated institute employs over 200 researchers in five focus areas: Breast Cancer, Cancer Prevention, Developmental Therapeutics, Hematopoiesis, and Tumor Metastasis. IU’s Hoosier Oncology Group presently has around 700 adult and pediatric clinical trials statewide. Its famous for having the United States’ only breast tissue bank, which is named after Susan G. Komen. The Center also works globally to treat cancer patients at Moi Teaching Referral Hospital in Kenya.

7. University of Utah

As the Beehive State’s sole NCI-designated research center, the Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah employs 138 faculty. It was established in 1995 after a $100 million donation from a four-time cancer survivor. Today, the HCI leads the Intermountain West with research in four major programs: Nuclear Control of Cell Growth, Cell Response and Regulation, Experimental Therapeutics, and Cancer Population Sciences. The 231,118-square-foot facility in Salt Lake City first discovered that the protein RON kinase actively signals tumor cell DNA. The HCI also leads the Utah Population Database for analyzing inheritance patterns.

8. Ohio State University

The 21-floor, 1.1-million-square-foot James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute at Ohio State University has maintained NCI designation since 1976. The OSUCCC’s over 300 oncology researchers access unparalleled resources, including six radiology suites and 14 fully-equipped operating rooms. As one of only 11 DRG-exempt institutions nationally, its vision is to develop a cancer-free world in five target areas: Cancer Control, Leukemia, Molecular Biology and Genetics, Carcinogenesis, and Chemoprevention. The James Cancer Hospital has achieved ANCC Magnet Recognition with Wexner Medical Center. Approximately $2 million is allocated yearly for the OSUCCC-James Pelotonia Fellowship Program too.

9. New York University

Awarded NCI designation and ACS accreditation, the Laura and Isaac Perlmutter Cancer Center is located at New York University’s Langone Medical Center. Founded in 1975, the interdisciplinary institute attracts over 250 faculty to state-of-the-art labs like the Kimmel Stem Cell Center. Some recent discoveries include a promising immune therapy for Hodgkin lymphoma and the EGFR gene’s role in cancer cell growth. The Melanoma Research Program is also noteworthy for finding drug-carrying “nanoghosts” to fight invasive skin cancer. NYU students could pursue the Ph.D. in Molecular Oncology and Tumor Immunology for training.

10. University of Texas at Dallas

Split into 30 leading-edge departments, the Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Texas Southwestern in Dallas is North Texas’ only NCI-designated institute. More than 260 faculty work in multi-disciplinary teams for five target areas: Cancer Development, Cancer Cell Networks, Cancer Chemistry, Experimental Therapeutics, and Population Science. Partnered with the 460-bed Clements University Hospital since 2014, the center received the ACS Outstanding Achievement Award. Notable discoveries include an HIF-2 inhibitor for metastatic renal cell carcinoma and stereotactic radiation therapy for prostate cancer. The NIH provides over $427 million yearly to fund 5,800+ research protocols.

This universities only represent a small sampling of the 69 NCI-designated Cancer Centers excelling across 35 states and the District of Columbia. Other top research institutes include Yale, Rutgers, Northwestern, Duke, Georgetown, and Kansas. Clinical scientists at these prestigious schools are revolutionizing healthcare and saving lives with innovative research on cancer.

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