The Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center has received an elite federal designation. The center is now recognized as a National Cancer Institute-Comprehensive Cancer Center, making it the only one of its kind in Indiana and just the 51st in the nation. The IU Simon Cancer Center received an "outstanding" rating by NCI reviewers and has been awarded a five-year, $13.8 million grant to support its research programs and shared facilities.

IU Health says the designation affirms that Indiana residents "have access to the most advanced, research-guided therapies, as well as hundreds of clinical studies that test the most promising new approaches to preventing, diagnosing and treating cancer."

In an interview with Inside INdiana Business Reporter Mary-Rachel Redman, IU President Michael McRobbie touted the significance of the designation.

"In terms of a designation that would inspire confidence in people coming here for treatment, this could not be more important to Indiana University or the Simon Cancer Center," said McRobbie. "What it means for Hoosiers is that right in their backyard, right here in Indianapolis, is a cancer center that is ranked as good as any in the country and that they can be confident that they can come to the Simon Cancer Center and get treatment for any form of cancer that is as good and is at the leading edge of cancer treatment comparable to anything else in the country."

The grant funding represents a 43% increase from the amount received during the previous five-year funding period.

"We take our goal to eliminate cancer’s burden in Indiana and beyond seriously," Patrick Loehrer, director of the IU Simon Cancer Center, said in a news release. "Our research focuses upon decreasing the number of Hoosiers who develop and die from the cancers that strike our citizens. This grant bolsters support for us to uncover the biologic mysteries of cancer and define new therapies for patients here and around the globe."

The NCI reviewers cited the "very well-designed community outreach efforts to serve the needs of the (state of Indiana)" in addition to the center’s laboratory and clinical research. IU Health says such efforts include initiatives to increase HPV vaccination rates, as well as developing, testing and disseminating interventions to increase breast, cervical, and colorectal cancer screening in racially diverse and rural populations throughout the state.

(Pictured in center) Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett, IU President Michael McRobbie, Senator Todd Young (R-IN)