What It Means To Be a Comprehensive Cancer Center

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Health care providers often use the word “comprehensive” in marketing to attract patients to their institutions for cancer care. Yet the care provided at a cancer center designated by the National Cancer Institute with the “comprehensive” status indicates a breadth and depth not offered in most hospitals. John L. Marshall, MD, chief medical officer of Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center sheds some light on what “comprehensive” means.

John Marshall
John L. Marshall, MD

What is a True Comprehensive Cancer Center?

Obviously, any organization can use the word “comprehensive” to describe the services they offer. But when it comes to cancer care, it’s important to understand what comprehensive truly means. The “comprehensive” in our name is not just a word. It is validation from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) that our cancer center has proven excellence, leadership and resources, in addition to a superior demonstration of laboratory and clinical research. Also, a comprehensive cancer center like ours is a part of the community we serve — a critical part of our mission is providing programs and services tailored to what our community needs.

Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center first received its Comprehensive Cancer Center designation 50 years ago, and it remains the only such cancer center in Washington, DC, and one of only 56 Comprehensive Cancer Centers in the country. The NCI reviews cancer centers about every five years to ensure they continuously meet the exceptionally high standards required to maintain the “comprehensive” status. That means the NCI recognizes that our leadership and resources are best positioned to provide excellent, high-impact laboratory and clinical research. Simply put, we have met rigorous standards “for transdisciplinary, state-of-the-art research focused on developing new and better approaches to preventing, diagnosing, and treating cancer.”

How Does the Distinction Make a Difference for Patients?

It translates into the best possible care for patients. When treated as part of an NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center like Georgetown Lombardi in collaboration with the specialists of the MedStar Georgetown Cancer Institute network, patients have access to innovative clinical research, exceptional patient care, and advanced technology.

It signifies a multidisciplinary approach to cancer care. We serve as a central hub for all our patients’ needs, offering a full spectrum of cancer services, including screening and prevention, research, diagnosis, treatment, rehabilitation, social/emotional support, and survivorship programs. Our specialists are leaders in the field of cancer research and work collaboratively to develop unique treatment plans designed specifically for each patient. Our oncology nurse navigators streamline the process, ensuring the delivery of patient-centered care throughout the cancer journey. This team approach results in higher quality care and, ultimately, better outcomes.

Why Choose an NCI-Designated Comprehensive Cancer Center?

Centers like ours dedicate significant resources toward developing research programs, faculty and facilities that will lead to better and innovative approaches to cancer prevention, diagnosis, and treatment. In many cases, certain treatments and clinical trials are only available through NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers and their affiliates.

In addition, NCI supports the research infrastructure for cancer centers to advance scientific goals and foster cancer programs that draw together investigators from different disciplines. Our work has national and international reach, and we are constantly striving to advance our understanding of cancer and enhance treatments in collaboration with our partners and the greater cancer community.