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September 2, 2003


Emory's Winship Cancer Institute Earns $1.9 Million NCI Grant

Atlanta, Ga - Governor Sonny Perdue and Michael Johns, MD, executive vice president for Health Affairs and CEO of the Woodruff Health Sciences Center at Emory University, announced today that Emory’s Winship Cancer Institute (WCI) has been awarded a $1.9 million National Cancer Institute Planning Grant.

The planning grant is a critical first step in attaining Georgia's first-ever NCI Comprehensive Cancer Center designation, which has long been a strategic objective of the state's innovative cancer initiative.

The grant, known as a P-20 grant, will provide a minimum of $250,000 each year for five years to the WCI. NCI established the competitive P-20 grant to provide promising cancer centers assistance in establishing the research programs that are required for the NCI Comprehensive Cancer Center designation.

"This grant is an important step in the NCI designation process," said Dr. Johns. "NCI provides these grants only to academic centers that meet high qualitative and quantitative standards in cancer research and community outreach."

"We are very excited about this important grant," said Governor Perdue. "It means we can continue to develop research collaborations among physicians, scientists and healthcare professionals throughout the state for the benefit of every Georgia citizen."

The next step in the NCI process is submission of a P-30 grant, which, if funded will be the next major hurdle in gaining Comprehensive Cancer Center designation. Such a designation would be a first for Georgia and would provide tangible benefits to Atlanta and the state through increased access to important clinical trials not previously available, and a greater emphasis on community education regarding cancer prevention and early detection.

The NCI Centers Program is focused on scientific research that is designed to increase our understanding of cancer. That knowledge is then translated into clinical trials in which the most promising new therapies are tested in a patient population. The NCI looks at each institution’s particular capabilities and how those capabilities can contribute to advancing scientific research and a better understanding of cancer. According to the NCI, there are 61 designated centers in the U.S., of which only 39 are "Comprehensive."

"What is unique about Georgia is the state's substantial commitment of tobacco settlement funds through the Georgia Cancer Coalition," said Dr. Johns. "The GCC will serve to make the NCI program funding more efficient by developing a state-wide network of research centers which will collaborate on investigations and develop clinical trials that are accessible to all Georgians. Most major advances in cancer treatment have been realized through clinical trials."

Thomas Lawley, MD, dean of the Emory University School of Medicine, said that the Winship Cancer Institute is poised to make a true difference in the war on cancer. "WCI’s ability to leverage Emory’s resources as a major scientific research university with its strength in social sciences, public health, nursing, and statistics will result in customized, patient-centered therapies not available elsewhere in Georgia," said Dr. Lawley. "The scientists, physicians and health care professionals who are developing WCI’s cancer programs will impact cancer research and treatment throughout Georgia, the Southeast and the nation."

Jonathan Simons, MD, director of the Winship Cancer Institute, will serve as planning director for the five-year grant. After joining Emory in February, 2000, Dr. Simons developed an aggressive recruiting plan to attract physicians and scientists to Emory and the WCI and to increase the level of peer-reviewed scientific research funded by the National Cancer Institute--both of which are key elements of the successful P-20 grant. In the three years since his arrival, 25 new Emory and WCI faculty members, many of whom have been designated as Distinguished Scientists by the Georgia Cancer Coalition, have brought nearly $45 million in federal and foundation grant money to Georgia for cancer research. In addition, 19 new clinical trials are now available to cancer patients.

Dr. Simons is quick to note, however, that it is the patient who remains at the center of every effort undertaken at WCI. In developing the cancer program at Emory, he has kept the focus on "translational cancer research," which means the work conducted in laboratories is applied across disciplines and disease types so that patients may realize the benefit from ground-breaking research more quickly. In addition, an important emphasis at WCI is on developing collaborations with community physicians and other research institutions throughout Georgia to maximize results of scientific research

"'From bench to bedside and back again’ is the shorthand way of describing translational research," says Dr. Simons. "In a translational research environment, communication among scientists, physicians, nurses and healthcare professionals works for the benefit of the patient. It is all about eradicating the burden of cancer on our lives and on our society."

Emory’s emphasis on cancer research can also be seen in the new WCI building, which opened for patients in July, 2003. The 280,000 square foot building is designed as a "pavilion" in which patients with cancer, doctors, nurses, and scientists are all brought together under one roof.

A formal dedication for the WCI building is scheduled for 2 p.m. on September 24, 2003. Governor Perdue and Emory’s new president James Wagner will be the featured speakers at the dedication.

"Our new building will serve as a discovery accelerator," said Dr. Simons, "where care of cancer patients is advanced through groundbreaking discoveries in genomics and molecular medicine. This building reflects Emory’s commitment of energy and resources to improving cancer prevention, treatment and care for all Georgians. The successful NCI grant enables us to continue putting that commitment into action."

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