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Siteman Cancer Center earns highest federal rating

Siteman Cancer Center has been recognized again as a top U.S. cancer institution by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the... Siteman Cancer Center has been recognized again as a top U.S. cancer institution by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the principal federal agency for cancer research and training.

Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis has been recognized once again as a top U.S. cancer institution, based on a review of its research programs. This evaluation resulted in a nearly perfect score, earning Siteman the highest possible rating — exceptional — by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Siteman is the only NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center in Missouri and in southern Illinois. The cancer center is known for its leadership, cutting-edge research and focus on turning scientific discoveries into innovative cancer treatments.

To maintain its NCI designation, a cancer center must undergo a rigorous, peer-reviewed evaluation every five years. Siteman also received an exceptional rating in 2015, when it last underwent an NCI review.

“We are pleased with the work that has earned Siteman its national and international reputation,” said Timothy J. Eberlein, MD, Siteman’s director and the Spencer T. and Ann W. Olin Distinguished Professor and head of the Department of Surgery at the School of Medicine. “This is recognition of the impact we have had on our patients, helping to develop innovative treatments that are making a difference in their lives. We are here to provide hope for them.”

Siteman earned its latest exceptional rating based on a January site visit by 22 researchers and administrators from academic cancer centers across the U.S. During the visit, Washington University researchers and physicians presented their innovative research programs in genomics, cancer imaging, cancer prevention and disparities, immunology and immunotherapy, and early-phase clinical trials. Among the topics presented:

  • Siteman’s robust portfolio of more than 600 clinical studies and the cancer center’s success enrolling more than 12,000 patients in clinical studies per year. Enrollment is an NCI priority because of the essential role of clinical studies in the development and approval of new treatments and other interventions.
  • Genomic research to identify personalized targets and create personalized vaccines.
  • The use of ultrasound and photoacoustic imaging, which relies on light and sound rather than tissue samples, to diagnose ovarian cancer.
  • Community-based research to understand and reduce cancer disparities and lessen the burden of cancer in our entire region.
  • Improvements in colorectal cancer screening in urban and rural areas.
  • The use of cellular therapies and CAR-T cell therapy to treat blood and bone marrow cancers.
  • The development of novel immunotherapies for the prevention and treatment of cancer.
  • Community outreach and education, and enhanced access to cancer care.
  • The range of educational opportunities available at Siteman, from mentorships for high school and college students to advanced training for medical students and junior faculty.

As an NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, Siteman is expected to be a major researcher into the causes, prevention and early detection of and treatments for cancer, and to share these findings so other health-care institutions also might implement them to improve the overall health of the population. These efforts include a focus on basic science, which is the search for foundational knowledge about cancer risk and therapies, and on clinical research such as clinical trials designed to evaluate the effectiveness of innovative cancer therapies.

“Our Washington University researchers have been at the forefront of discoveries that have advanced the understanding or changed the course of treatment for a variety of cancers,” said John F. DiPersio, MD, PhD, Siteman’s deputy director and the Virginia E. and Samuel J. Golman Endowed Professor of Oncology and director of the Division of Oncology at the School of Medicine. “Along with our commitment to basic, translational and clinical research, we have trained countless scientists, physicians and fellows who have gone on to become leaders in their fields of interest and leaders of research here and at other major cancer centers around the world.”

Established in 1999, Siteman is recognized as a leading cancer center by its peers and the NCI. Siteman was named Missouri’s only NCI-designated Cancer Center in 2001 and the state’s only Comprehensive Cancer Center in 2005. Today, Siteman treats more than 75,000 unique patients, including 12,000 newly diagnosed patients, every year. Care is provided at six locations in the St. Louis region: on the Washington University Medical Campus and at Northwest HealthCare, part of Christian Hospital; Barnes-Jewish St. Peters Hospital; Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital; Siteman Cancer Center-South County; and Memorial Hospital East in Shiloh, Ill. Siteman also partners with Siteman Kids at St. Louis Children’s Hospital in the treatment of pediatric patients. The facilities all are affiliated with BJC HealthCare.

To further extend its research efforts and promote science-based best practices, Siteman launched the Siteman Cancer Network in 2017, an affiliation with regional medical centers that is aimed at improving the health of individuals and communities through cancer research, treatment and prevention. Among other efforts, Siteman works with affiliates in Missouri and Illinois to assess the burden of cancer in specific areas and to plan and execute ways to prevent and control the disease.

“Our focus is forward as we lead the charge for better health,” Eberlein said. “That’s true whether our work is in the laboratory, clinic or community. Consecutive exceptional ratings are a validation of our extraordinary efforts to prevent, better diagnose and treat cancer throughout our region.”