publication date: Jul. 12, 2019

Wistar and Christiana Care seek NCI recognition of their unique alliance

By Paul Goldberg

The relationship between The Wistar Institute Cancer Center and Christiana Care’s Helen F. Graham Cancer Center and Research Institute is unlike any other.

Philadelphia-based Wistar, one of the seven NCI-designated basic research centers, doesn’t have a hospital. Delaware-based Christiana Care, one of the largest health systems in the Northeast, treats a massive number of patients and is a member of the NCI Community Oncology Research Program, but doesn’t do basic research.

The institutions are so different that a decade ago Wistar’s Dario C. Altieri, and Christiana Care’s Nicholas J. Petrelli, saw an obvious fit: science + patients = translational research.

The relationship between the two centers has withstood NCI scrutiny twice—during review of Wistar’s NCI designation in 2013 and 2018. For two cycles in a row, the institute’s reviewers singled out the Wistar-Christiana Care collaboration for its innovation, accomplishments, and impact, and on both occasions, this was a factor for the “exceptional” rating for Wistar.

With rapid changes in the science, technology, and business structures that are determining the structures of cancer centers today, one thing remains unchanged—the value of the NCI designation. As funding for centers goes up and down, the institute continues to wield the ultimate seal of approval.

Currently, NCI doesn’t have a provision to recognize the Wistar-Christiana Care partnership—or at least Christiana Care’s part in it. In December 2017, NCI started to require that each institution vying to be a part of a consortium cancer center hold at least seven peer-reviewed, cancer-relevant grants of $125,000 per year for three years from at least five PIs.

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