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Central Illinois Community Clinical Oncology Program Receives Funding

Wednesday August, 28th 2019

August 28, 2019…Decatur, Ill…Central Illinois Community Clinical Oncology Program (CICCOP) from Decatur was one of the beneficiaries of the Heartland NCORP funding from the National Cancer Institute (NCI).  The Heartland Cancer Research National Community Oncology Research Program (Heartland NCORP) was formed in 2013 through the cooperative efforts of three community cancer research programs  (CCOP’s); Missouri Baptist Heartland CCOP from St. Louis, Illinois Cancer Care CCOP from Peoria, Illinois and the Central Illinois CCOP from Decatur, Illinois.  These three nationally recognized community cancer programs each brought to the new Heartland NCORP a strong committed network of cancer doctors, nurses, and administrators.  By working together, Heartland NCORP provides state of the art National Cancer Institute supported clinical trials to 124 counties with a population of 7 million across portions of five states.  Heartland NCORP serves 3/4ths of Illinois, ½ of Missouri, and the portions of Kentucky, Tennessee, and Arkansas that are adjacent to the boot heal of Missouri.  This enormous region includes a large proportion of medically underserved persons who are elderly, live in rural areas, or live in inner city healthcare shortage areas.  Heartland NCORP brings to cancer patients and families cutting edge research studies for cancer treatment, cancer prevention, quality of life improvement, and cancer care delivery.  By combining our efforts we achieve advantages of increased efficiency and magnitude of scale, thus increasing value to the National Cancer Institute for the work we will perform.

“Decatur Memorial Hospital and Cancer Care Specialists of Illinois are proud to be a key part of the National Cancer Institute funded Heartland NCORP, said James Wade, MD, President of Cancer Care Specialists of Illinois and Director of Medical Oncology, Decatur Memorial Hospital Cancer Care Institute.  This NCI six year research grant is not just given; it is awarded after an intense national competition which recognizes quality, commitment, and community impact. Our Heartland Cancer Research National Community Oncology Research Program (NCORP), one of the largest of the 32 funded programs nationally, brings state of the art therapies and improved patient outcomes to all sites we serve in Central and Southern Illinois. This new grant insures that our 35 year tradition of cancer research excellence will continue to benefit the patients and families throughout our Heartland.”

The award for the Heartland NCORP comes at the end of a long competitive process.  Heartland NCORP members began planning the new program in 2013.  In 2014 Heartland Cancer Research NCORP received funding for 5 years.  Over 14 months ago Heartland members began writing the re-application for the cycle 2 of the NCORP grant, and submitted the completed application to the NCI last August.  The grant was then evaluated and graded by a peer review committee, and in May the Heartland NCORP application received an outstanding score of 20.  The NCI then subjected each successful grant to additional review, and the final award to Heartland was announced, August 16, 2019.

The NCI award of $2,755,865 per year over six years will help pay for the costs of specialized research staff who will work side by side with cancer physicians and oncology nurses.  Heartland NCORP is projected to enroll more than 500 patients on NCI approved cancer clinical trials each year over the next 5 years, making it one of the largest cancer clinical research programs in the United States.  By participating in a NCI approved clinical trial, patients and families can be assured that their care is delivered under the highest quality standards with special attention to each patient’s symptoms, quality of life, and cancer response to treatment.

On Friday, August 23rd, Heartland NCORP researchers were recognized with 12 awards at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, for their scientific contributions over the past year.  The overall Heartland NCORP received a Gold certificate for its overall success, along with two specific awards for contributing to two key NCI Cancer Care Delivery initiatives.  In addition, four Decatur physicians, Jon Locke, MD, of DMH Radiology, and Drs. James Wade, Ben Esparaz, and Vijay Damarla of Cancer Care Specialists received individual recognition for their contributions to cancer research.

The Heartland NCORP grant was successful in large part due to the extensive experience and leadership of the three founding programs.   The principal investigator of Heartland NCORP is Bryan A. Faller, MD, with James L. Wade III, MD, FACP, FASCO, serving as the Decatur Memorial Hospital Research Medical Director.  Dr. Wade, based in Decatur, Illinois, has led the CICCOP for more than 20 years, has served on multiple NCI committees and advisory panels, and is nationally recognized and an expert in community based cancer research.  He is supported by Dr. Alan Lyss of St. Louis, Dr. Jane Liu of Peoria, Dr. Justin Floyd of Swansea, Dr. Preet Singh of Springfield, and Dr. Ben Esparaz of Decatur.  All of these cancer specialists bring years of experience, a desire to improve cancer care through research, and strong records in clinical trial accrual as evidenced by their multiple NCI participation awards.  Dr. Wade is also supported by a seasoned administrative team from St. Louis, Decatur, and Peoria.  Finally, the Heartland NCORP program would not have succeeded without the support of its component institutions that will help underwrite the cost of the research effort.   Each of these organizations recognizes that we all must do our part, and more, to help move science forward and ultimately defeat cancer.  The continuation of the Heartland NCORP is another important step to that ultimate goal.


Decatur Memorial Hospital (DMH), located in Decatur, Ill., is a 300 bed, not-for-profit, community hospital that has been providing medical care since 1916 for the residents of Central Illinois.  Today, DMH has more than 2,300 dedicated employees, 300 physicians, and is a designated Level II Trauma Center.  DMH has been recognized nine years as a 50 Top Cardiovascular Hospital from IBM Watson Health.

For the full list of NCORP Community Sites, Minority/Underserved Community Sites, and Research Bases, visit

For a video about NCORP, go to NCI’s YouTube page at

NCORP Facts:

  • From 2014-2018, approximately 30,000 patients have been enrolled in NCI clinical trials through the NCORP sites.
  • From 2014-2018, over 100 clinicians and 4,500 patients have been enrolled by NCORP sites to cancer care delivery research studies.
  • The NCORP encompasses 1,000+ sites across the United States.
  • NCORP brings cancer research across the country, including the states of Hawaii and Alaska, and the U.S. territories of Puerto Rico, and Guam.
  • Over 9,000 Doctors, Nurses, & Research Staff take part in cancer research through the NCORP sites.
  • About 25% of cancer clinical trial participants from all NCORP sites are minorities.
  • NCORP brings access to cancer clinical trials to communities across the United States, including in 25 states with large rural populations (based upon the 2010 U.S. Census).
    • States with 30-61% rural populations:  Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, North Carolina, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Wyoming
    • States with 25-29% rural populations: Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Nebraska, Louisiana, Minnesota, Michigan, Virginia