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VCU Magazine: Massey’s New Era

Dec 06, 2023

Robert A. Winn, PhD in the community Robert Winn, M.D., visits a neighborhood in Chester, Virginia, in July. (Tyler Trumbo)

Amid a golden age for medical research, VCU Massey Comprehensive Cancer Center has earned the most prestigious designation in oncology. What happens next will shape the future of cancer science.

Of all the institutions that determine how the U.S. approaches cancer research and care, few are as influential as the National Cancer Institute, the body empowered by the 1971 National Cancer Act to carry out a “war on cancer” by forming a nationwide coalition of institutes and providing guidance and research funding. In the half-century since, the NCI has designated 72 such institutions, classifying them (in ascending order of thoroughness) as basic laboratories, cancer centers or comprehensive cancer centers.

VCU Massey Comprehensive Cancer Center has been an NCI-designated cancer center since 1975 (the year after its founding), and in June, the NCI elevated Massey to comprehensive status. There are more than 6,000 self-identified cancer centers in America. Only 56 are rated “comprehensive” by the NCI.

Robert A. Winn, M.D., Massey’s director, knows these facts as well as anyone. Achieving comprehensive status, he says, took decades of incremental progress and financial backing from the state government, VCU Health and tens of thousands of donors. Today, approximately 85% of Massey’s $41 million operating budget comes from those three sources. “Without all that, we wouldn’t be claiming comprehensive status,” Winn says. “People ask, ‘How hard is it [to be comprehensive]?’ We’ve been working at it since 1974. It’s very hard.”

Read the complete feature on Massey’s comprehensive status and the research and community engagement work it took to achieve it in VCU Magazine.

Written by: James Irwin

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