To address the heavy burden of cancer in Oklahoma, the State Legislature passed bipartisan-supported legislation in 2001 that called upon the University of Oklahoma to establish an academic cancer center to provide statewide leadership in cancer treatment, research, community outreach and education. To fulfill this mandate, the University collaborated with the State Legislature, OU Medicine, the Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust (TSET) and the state’s philanthropic community to establish Stephenson Cancer Center with the mission of improving patient outcomes and reducing the burden of cancer in Oklahoma and the nation. Stephenson is the state’s only cancer center to be designated by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), a distinction it earned in 2018, and it is one of just 71 NCI-Designated Cancer Centers in the nation. This highly competitive accreditation ensures that Stephenson cancer research is of the highest caliber and that cancer patients in Oklahoma have access to the most advanced treatment options.
Clinical Programs and Services
Stephenson Cancer Center houses the state’s largest and most comprehensive oncology practice, providing a unique resource for patients seeking advanced, research-driven multidisciplinary treatment. Stephenson houses more than 100 cancer experts who specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of all types of cancer. A comprehensive array of patient Supportive Care services help patients and caregivers address the mental, emotional and physical challenges of cancer. This team-based patient-centered approach ensures that patients receive the highest level of care during their cancer diagnosis and treatment. Oncology services at Stephenson are part of OU Medicine, Oklahoma’s only academic health system and the state’s largest network of physicians and specialty services. In 2019, OU Medical Center and Stephenson earned a highly coveted US News and World Report Top 50 “Best Hospitals for Cancer” ranking, placing it in the Top 1% of all hospitals in the nation for cancer care.
Stephenson Cancer Center supports 135 member investigators who conduct state-of-the-art research in the basic, clinical, behavioral and population sciences on the OU Health Sciences Center and OU Norman campuses. Their goal is to discover and translate new ideas into the clinic and community in order to improve patient outcomes and reduce cancer’s burden in Oklahoma and the nation. Research at Stephenson is organized into the following four formal scientific programs:
- Cancer Biology. Investigators seek to understand the complex molecular mechanisms that cause normal cells to become cancer cells.
- Gynecologic Cancers. Investigators explore the molecular mechanisms that trigger ovarian, uterine and cervical cancer as well as the question of why some patients develop resistance to certain cancer drugs. This program is nationally recognized for its work in early- and late-phase clinical trials.
- Experimental Medicine and Developmental Therapeutics. Investigators are developing new cancer diagnosis and treatment strategies for more effective clinical applications. Through clinical trials, this program brings the latest cancer treatments to Oklahomans.
- Cancer Prevention and Control. Investigators work with communities and underserved populations in Oklahoma to address the health risk factors and social determinants that lead to high rates of cancer incidence and mortality. This program has a specific emphasis on working with Oklahoma’s large rural and American Indian populations.
Stephenson Cancer Center is a nationally recognized leader in clinical trials research. One in four patients treated at the cancer center participate in a clinical trial to access a promising new therapy. Stephenson is just one of 32 Lead Academic Participating Sites in the NCI’s National Clinical Trials Network (NCTN), the world’s largest oncology clinical trials organization. Moreover, for the past five years Stephenson has ranked #1 nationally in the number of patients participating in NCTN treatment trials. The Oklahoma TSET Phase I Program at Stephenson offers patients access to the newest early-stage investigational drugs. It is a Top Ten Phase I program nationally and the only such program in the state and region.
Community Outreach and Education
Community outreach and engagement activities at Stephenson Cancer Center address Oklahoma’s heavy burden of cancer through focused education, prevention and screening initiatives. Specific programs seek to engage Oklahoma’s large rural and American Indian communities, which suffer disproportionately high cancer incidence and mortality rates. In addition, Stephenson supports numerous education, training and career enhancement programs for students and faculty in order to train the next generation of cancer researchers and health professionals, with a special emphasis on encouraging underrepresented student populations toward careers in biomedical research and healthcare.