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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 times.
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 Cancer Center.
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 expanded facilities.
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 NCI funding.
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 new employer.
“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
Benchmark                                                           1993                       2003                                2008   
Number of NIH funded cancer projects                   11                           48                                   117
NCI funding                                                     $1.2 million               $6.7 million                     $12.1 million
Number of fully established programs                        0                             3                                      4
HCC members (research)                                       12                           57                                     97
Accrual to all clinical research studies                      136                        498                                  1,306
Accrual to therapeutic trials                                      0                           47                                      201
Number of statewide affiliate/network sites               0                             0                                        9
Number of HCC endowed chairs                             2                             7                                       13
Total HCC endowment                                            0                       $10.1 million                     $20 million
Total HCC space (sq. ft.)                                    85,761                     85,761                             202,139

Friday, March 6, 2009

The Catalyst Online is published weekly by the MUSC Office of Public Relations for the faculty, employees and students of the Medical University of South Carolina. The Catalyst Online editor, Kim Draughn, can be reached at 792-4107 or by email, Editorial copy can be submitted to The Catalyst Online and to The Catalyst in print by fax, 792-6723, or by email to To place an ad in The Catalyst hardcopy, call Island Publications at 849-1778, ext. 201.