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Bolstered by Research Consortium with Drexel, Jefferson’s Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center Earns NCI Comprehensive Cancer Center Designation

April 18, 2024

College of Medicine Charles B. Cairns, MD, (left) and President John Fry (right) were present to honor Noreen Robertson, DMD, and Kenny Simansky, PhD, with Lifetime Achievement Awards at the SKCC Research Consortium retreat in February.  Simansky serves as senior vice dean for research at the College of Medicine, where he oversees the consortium partnership with Robertson, senior associate vice dean for research.

Thomas Jefferson University‘s Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center (SKCC), Drexel University’s partner in the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Research Consortium, has earned a National Cancer Institute (NCI) "Comprehensive" Cancer Center designation, the highest recognition awarded by the NCI.      

Serving more than 8,900 patients annually, the matrixed consortium cancer center provides the most advanced, research-based care by building upon the unique expertise, resources and capabilities of two highly regarded Philadelphia-based institutions, Thomas Jefferson University and Drexel University.   

“We at Jefferson have always known that the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center is among the best of the best. Now it’s official, with an important new designation that’s shared with less than two percent of the nation’s cancer centers,” said Joseph G. Cacchione, MD, CEO, Jefferson. "I couldn't be prouder of the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center team, and now our patients will be treated at one of just 57 elite cancer centers in the country with this notable distinction.”  

This recognition places SKCC among an elite group of only 57 cancer centers nationwide, providing exceptional and personalized cancer care and superior outcomes, fueled by a robust clinical research program.     

“Drexel University and Thomas Jefferson University share a research-driven mission to make an impact in the Philadelphia region and beyond. The partnership between our storied institutions allows us to optimize our respective research strengths and focus on the specific needs of the diverse communities across Southeastern Pennsylvania and South Jersey,” said Drexel University President John Fry. “This designation is a great win for the region, as it will strengthen the impact of scientific discovery across the consortium.”  

This designation is a testament to Jefferson’s work to save lives by developing, testing, and applying innovative approaches to improve cancer clinical outcomes. The Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center has been recognized for its leadership and resources, in addition to demonstrating an added depth and breadth of basic science, clinical research, and population science.  

The prestigious NCI Comprehensive Cancer Center designation is granted competitively to institutions characterized by the highest level of scientific excellence in cancer research and the ability to translate scientific discoveries into novel treatments. NCI Comprehensive Cancer Centers are also responsible for educating the public, training future healthcare professionals, and providing outreach to underserved populations. Comprehensive cancer centers address the cancer burden unique to the communities they serve through tailored research programs and community outreach.  

“Many people have been responsible for the success of the cancer center to this day. The Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center’s staff has worked tirelessly for years to make the comprehensive status a reality. We are the heart and soul of cancer care in Philadelphia and the communities we serve, and while this is an immense honor, it is also a tremendous responsibility. Comprehensiveness translates our commitment to cancer prevention, expertise, and leadership in delivering uncompromising care and breakthrough cancer research until every cancer is cured. We celebrate this milestone with our clinicians, support staff, patients, and their loved ones.” said Andrew Chapman, DO, FACP, EVP Cancer Research and Oncology Services, and director, Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center, Jefferson Health.  

As the federal government’s principal cancer research and training agency, the NCI awards designations based on excellence in cancer treatment, diagnosis, and prevention. Jefferson received an initial NCI Designation in 1996.   

“The NCI Comprehensive designation is an important milestone in our commitment to reducing the cancer burden not only in Philadelphia, but across the United States and globally,” said Susan C. Aldridge, PhD, interim president, Thomas Jefferson University. “It is the culmination of Jefferson's continued dedication to research, education and patient care. As partners in the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center Research Consortium, Jefferson, along with Drexel University, is focused on transforming breakthrough research into life-changing cancer treatment.  

Every five years, a peer review process occurs to assess the extent to which the center has promoted or is likely to promote excellence in research that may reduce the incidence, morbidity, and mortality attributable to cancer among persons within its service area and beyond. Reviewers evaluate how well the center’s leadership, organization, and processes for development and evaluation facilitate scientific productivity, strengthen the institution’s research capabilities, and enable its investigators to take advantage of scientific opportunities beyond what would have likely occurred at the institution without the Cancer Center Support Grants (CCSGs.) These grants predominantly support the research mission of the center.   

"This prestigious designation recognizes our Center’s excellence in cancer prevention, patient care and clinical research. It also elevates our entire health system's capabilities to deliver cutting-edge care and innovative solutions to our patients right here in our community," added Baligh R. Yehia, MD, MPP, MSc, FACP, president, Jefferson Health.  

Drexel and Jefferson are longtime allies in the fight against cancer. The schools formalized their partnership in 2013 as the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center (SKCC) Research Consortium, a relationship that was reinvigorated in 2021, as Jefferson prepared the center’s application for the NCI designation. Kenny Simansky, PhD, serves as senior vice dean for research at the College of Medicine, where he oversees the consortium partnership with Noreen Robertson, DMD, senior associate vice dean for research. Alessandro Fatatis, MD, PhD, professor of Pharmacology and Physiology and associate director for basic research at SKCC; Mauricio Reginato, PhD, professor and chair of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and program leader in the Translational Cellular Oncology Program at SKCC; and Brian Wigdahl, PhD, professor and chair of Microbiology and Immunology and co-director of the Cancer Genomics Shared Resource for SKCC, have contributed their leadership to this success from the outset of the research consortium.  

Under the renewed agreement, the consortium with the SKCC now explicitly involves seven Drexel schools including the College of Medicine, the Dornsife School of Public Health, the College of Nursing and Health Professions, the School of Biomedical Engineering, Science and Health Systems, the College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Computing and Informatics and the College of Engineering.

“This expansion of disciplines promises to build a rich, intellectually diverse research effort that we expect will transform strategies for NCI-designated comprehensive cancer centers to impact all aspects of cancer disease prevention, diagnosis, treatment and quality-of-life for patients and their families,” said Simansky. "Critically important is the overarching objective to address the social determinants of health and to provide equal access to exceptional health care for all of our communities.  We have world class expertise across our university for this effort.”

The Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center offers advanced treatment plans, access to a wide breadth of clinical trials, and comprehensive supportive services for patients throughout the region via its advanced care hubs in Philadelphia, South Jersey, and Montgomery and Bucks counties. Patients can access local resources, backed by the NCI-designated academic medical center in Center City Philadelphia.  

 Enhancing the Patient Experience    

Oncology patients will receive cancer care at the Honickman Center, Jefferson’s new state-of-the-art outpatient care center, which opened its doors to patients on April 15. The Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center is on the 12th, 14th and 15th  floors, where patients will be surrounded by a calming environment with open sunlit spaces and a breathtaking view of the Philadelphia skyline. Fifty-eight infusion chairs offering privacy, recliners with massage features, comfortable spaces for family members, and carefully selected artwork in key areas are all part of the healing experience and patient-centric care.  

 Generous Gift   

In recognition of this prestigious NCI designation, philanthropists Caroline and Sidney Kimmel will generously match every dollar raised for the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center Innovation Fund, up to $250,000, as part of Jefferson’s annual Giving Day. Mr. and Mrs. Kimmel have been extremely generous benefactors to Jefferson, having given more than $200 million over the years including: providing cornerstone funding to establish the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center in 1995, as well as transformational support for research into the prevention of cardiovascular disease, and Jefferson’s largest-ever gift of $110 million to name the Sidney Kimmel Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University in 2014. With this latest NCI comprehensiveness designation, the Kimmels are the only family to have two comprehensive cancer centers in the country named after them.