Louisiana Pursues Prestigious National Cancer Institute Designation
In a significant development, Governor John Bel Edwards and representatives from LSU Health, LCMC Health, Tulane University, and the Louisiana Cancer Research Center have unveiled a groundbreaking agreement aimed at expediting Louisiana's longstanding efforts to attain the prestigious National Cancer Institute (NCI) designation. This achievement would not only bestow the state with research funding but also bolster biomedical employment opportunities and attract patients from across the nation seeking top-tier cancer care.
Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne presided over the announcement at the Louisiana Cancer Research Center on Tulane Avenue, stating, "Today, we're as close as we've ever been" to realizing this critical goal.
The pursuit of the coveted NCI designation has been ongoing for over two decades, with previous milestones signaling progress. However, this new agreement formally establishes the collaborative framework for the four institutions as they work collectively to attain the NCI designation.
Under the terms of this historic deal, LSU Health New Orleans will take the lead in the application process for the NCI designation. This decision is a crucial step, as NCI rules dictate that only one applicant is permitted, ensuring a unified approach and consolidating the efforts of these prominent health institutions.
Dr. Joe Ramos, Director of the Louisiana Cancer Research Center, emphasized the significance of this alignment, stating, "You have to have only one applicant, according to the NCI rules. That is essential. LSU has campuses around the state, Ag Centers, a statewide reach, and over $17 million in research funding. All that is important."
Nevertheless, the road to NCI designation is lengthy and intricate. It is projected to take at least five to six years before the application can be submitted, with an additional year or more required for a decision on the designation.
Governor Edwards, who concludes his tenure at the end of the year, emphasized that securing the NCI designation has been a long-standing priority for his administration. He said, "We have been working on this for literally the whole eight years to get where we are today. While it may be a simple six-page agreement, it is going to have a profound impact on Louisiana."
Under the terms of the agreement, Dr. Ramos, who was recruited to lead the LCRC in mid-2022, will divide his time between LSU Health New Orleans and the LCRC, with both institutions sharing the responsibility of his salary.
In the coming years, the partnering institutions will focus on enhancing collaboration in cancer research and extending their outreach across the state with their findings, clinical trials, and cooperative endeavors. This newfound alignment is seen as a crucial step forward in addressing Louisiana's high cancer rates and suboptimal outcomes.
Securing NCI designation is expected to not only retain patients within the state but also strengthen the biomedical district in New Orleans and the broader healthcare sector in Louisiana. As of now, there are 71 NCI-designated centers in 36 states across the U.S., yet none are situated in Louisiana or Mississippi.
Cancer care and research represent a substantial segment of the healthcare industry, with institutions statewide vying for patients. Notably, Ochsner Health recently announced a partnership with MD Anderson in Houston, becoming an MD Anderson Cancer Center. This partnership grants access to clinical trials offered by the Houston-based center.
While Ochsner was not part of this recent announcement, it is a member of the Louisiana Cancer Research Center, alongside LSU Health, Tulane, and Xavier University. The united efforts of these institutions hold the promise of significantly improving cancer care, research, and outcomes in the state.