HCC's journey to accreditation
by Melissa Lacas
Graduate Intern, Public Relations
In the early 1990s, 28 cancer centers were located in 18 states, none
of which were anywhere near South Carolina or reasonably accessible to
those bearing the nation’s highest cancer rates.
“This geographic gap is a serious problem. Not only do cancer
patients suffer from having to travel long distances for special
treatment, but physicians and hospitals throughout the state are also
missing an extremely helpful resource,” said then MUSC President James
B. Edwards, DMD, on Oct. 16,
1992. “It’s time South Carolina had an NCI-designated comprehensive cancer center.”
That seemed like a lofty order then, but MUSC and its leadership have a
history of beating the odds and maintaining focus during distracting
In the midst of a national economic crisis when MUSC faced deep
across-the-board funding and staffing cuts, Hollings Cancer Center’s
(HCC) determination and performance as a cancer center earned it the
National Cancer Institute designation. Not to be complacent, Andrew
Kraft, M.D., HCC director, now seeks to not only maintain the
designation but to achieve the prestigious distinction of a
comprehensive cancer center designation, which is reserved for the best
of the best NCI-designated cancer centers.
Building on the future
When Congress approved funding for the first MUSC cancer center
building in 1990, the MUSC board of trustees thanked the man
responsible, Ernest F. “Fritz” Hollings, by naming the center after him.
A Charleston native, Hollings is the legendary U.S. senator who helped
secure $16 million in federal funds to build what initially was called
the Hollings Oncology Center.
Construction for the new center began in 1991, which incorporated the
façade of the original medical college building constructed in 1913.
The center officially opened to patients on Aug. 9, 1993. Several days
later, on Aug. 13, the board of trustees changed the name to Hollings
In its design, the distinctive Greek Ionic columns and emblem were
preserved and integrated into the new facility to preserve the heritage
of medical professionals who trained and practiced at MUSC. This
architectural element is a design theme replicated in several of MUSC’s
In the beginning, HCC had a dozen investigators with $1.2 million in
NCI funding. Today, the center maintains a force of about 100
scientists working in 23 MUSC departments; and more than $13 million in
The early leadership of HCC focused on building the critical mass of
scientists and clinicians and key research infrastructures, and by the
late 1990s, strategic plans began on expanding the physical footprint
of the building to accommodate its growth.
Since its inception, Carolyn Reed, M.D., professor of surgery,
associate director of HCC medical affairs and nationally renowned
thoracic surgeon, served in a leadership capacity for the center,
including as interim director. Reed had led the early effort to obtain
an NCI Cancer Center Planning Grant, and oversaw the design and
commencement of the construction for a new HCC tower, which would
adjoin the original building.
By 2001, HCC doubled the number of yearly patient visits since its
opening. On Dec. 13, 2001, the groundbreaking for the seven-story
addition was held, and construction was completed in 2007.
“Dr. Reed is working hard to build upon our many strengths and assure
excellence throughout our program,” MUSC President Ray Greenberg, M.D.,
Ph.D., said May 31, 2002. “This must be a team effort, with many
clinical and basic science departments participating in the effort and
I am confident that we will succeed in securing designation.”
In 2002, Reed and College of Medicine Dean Jerry Reves, M.D., launched
a national recruitment for a permanent HCC scientific director. Andrew
Kraft M.D., a medical oncologist and nationally recognized researcher
then at the University of Colorado, was hired as HCC director in 2004,
and wasted no time in pursuing an NCI cancer center designation for his
“In the past few years, under Dr. Kraft’s leadership, progress has been
particularly striking with a dramatic increase in the number of faculty
members, research grants, and the opening this past year of a greatly
expanded new home,” Greenberg said.
An expansion project completed in 2007 accommodated the critical need
for lab space, giving HCC 202,139 square feet to grow and which
currently houses multidisciplinary clinics, chemotherapy infusion
suites and research laboratories.
While the HCC structure provides a venue out of which scientific
marvels emerge, the existence of such accommodations was only one
contributing factor to the NCI designation.
The designation was a culmination of many achievements, including
leadership and the contributions of many who have served MUSC and the
cancer center from the beginning.
“This process was shepherded by the first HCC Director, Dr. Peter
Fischinger, followed in succession by Dr. Mark Green, Dr. Carolyn Reed,
and ultimately, Dr. Andrew Kraft,” Greenberg said. “Each of these
directors brought to the Hollings Cancer Center a vision for success
that ultimately culminated in the successful award of NCI designation.”
HCC research and clinical growth
Number of NIH funded cancer
Number of fully established
Accrual to all clinical research
Accrual to therapeutic
Number of statewide affiliate/network
Number of HCC endowed
Total HCC space (sq.
Friday, March 6, 2009