Cancer Facts and Figures

Corinna Kaarlela, News Director
Source: Elizabeth Fernandez (415) 476-2557

Cancer Facts and Figures:


  • UCSF is home to the Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center, which is designated as a comprehensive cancer center by the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health. UCSF received this designation — which is the highest NCI ranking — in 1999.
  • UCSF ranks 7th in total research support from the National Cancer Institute. Cancer research projects to UCSF from the NCI currently total $71.5 million annually.
  • Among the 65 NCI-designated cancer centers nationwide, the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center ranks sixth in the size of its NCI Cancer Center Support Grant, and first among the 10 NCI-designated cancer centers located in California.
  • The UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center ranks first in NCI CCSG funding among the 10 NCI-designated cancer centers in California.
  • UCSF is one of 8 institutions that have three or more NCI SPORE (Specialized Programs of Research Excellence) grants - prestigious initiatives that engage lab-based and population scientists, clinical investigators, and advocates.
  • In 2008, the U.S. News & World Report "America's Best Hospitals" survey ranked UCSF 8th for cancer care - and first among California cancer-care providers. The 2008 survey placed UCSF Medical Center and its cancer care among the top 10 in the nation for the eighth consecutive year.


  • A world leader in the quest to conquer cancer, UCSF established the country's first Cancer Research Institute in 1948, nearly 25 years before the federal government declared the "war on cancer" a national priority.
  • UCSF scientists performed the basic research (beginning in the 1970s) that led to the genetically engineered vaccine for hepatitis B, preventing thousands of deaths from liver cancer worldwide.
  • UCSF Chancellor J. Michael Bishop and colleague Harold Varmus received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (1989) for their discovery of proto-oncogenes, normal genes that have the potential to convert to cancer genes. The discovery transformed the way that scientists look at cancer, and has led to new strategies for research, detection and treatment of the disease.
  • Elizabeth Blackburn received the Lasker Award (2006) and several other international prizes for her discovery of telomerase, a novel enzyme that is now a focus of study as a target for treating cancer.

Patient Care and Clinical Research

  • UCSF has been innovative in establishing support services for cancer patients at the time of treatment, during recovery and as they live with cancer. Programs include the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine and Art for Recovery, both based at UCSF Medical Center at Mount Zion.
  • In 2007, 5,570 individuals were newly diagnosed with cancer at the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center. Diagnoses spanned all categories of cancer, in both adult and pediatric patients. Among the largest categories of cancer diagnoses were digestive system (863), prostate (813), breast (618), brain and nervous system (509), melanoma and other skin cancers (435), respiratory system (378), and hematologic and lymphoid malignancies (329).
  • In 2007, UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center clinical research investigators led 410 therapeutic research protocols, which represented NCI cooperative-group studies, protocols with pharmaceutical industry sponsorship, and institutional protocols initiated by UCSF investigators. A total of 514 cancer patients were newly enrolled in these research studies in 2007.

Cancer Center Investigators

  • The Cancer Center's nearly 400 members and associate members - faculty investigators in laboratory, clinical, and population-based research - exemplify the value of attacking the cancer problem through collaborative, interdisciplinary research. Cancer Center members represent dozens of departments and institutes in the UCSF Schools Dentistry, Medicine, Nursing and Pharmacy.
  • Cancer-related research and clinical care are significant priorities for UCSF overall; about one-quarter of the university's full-time faculty members work in cancer research or patient care.
  • Members exemplify extraordinary scientific distinction as measured by prestigious national and international honors. Among UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center members are a winner of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine; four winners of the Albert Lasker Award for Basic or Clinical Medical Research; 10 Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigators; 10 members of the National Academy of Sciences; 21 members of the Institute of Medicine; 14 Fellows of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; and five Fellows of the Royal Society and the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

Impact of Biomedical Research

  • Public-private partnerships can help speed the advancement of biomedical research and move discoveries from bench to bedside. UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center investigators have developed creative partnerships with dozens of life-science companies in the Bay Area and beyond. Current initiatives totaling millions of dollars in research funding include strategic partnerships with industry leaders such as Novartis, Genentech, SurroMed, Onyx Pharmaceuticals, Celera Diagnostics, and Predicant Biosciences.
  • Leading biomedical research universities such as UCSF are engines of discovery that launch new ideas into the private sector for further development. Nearly 70 life-science companies have direct roots to UCSF inventions, technology, or personnel. Overall, the University of California has received more patents than any other university in the world, and UCSF is ranked first for active patents in the University of California system. Among UCSF patents are many of the UC system's top revenue producers, including hepatitis B vaccine, yeast expression vector, a technique for delivering medicines to the body's cells, a form of recombinant DNA used for the production of therapeutic agents, and magnetic resonance imaging.

Institutional Memberships and Accreditation

  • Since 1998, UCSF has been a member of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, an alliance of 21 of the world's leading cancer centers.

  • The UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center is a member of the Association of American Cancer Institutes, comprising leading US research centers whose efforts involve a comprehensive and multidisciplinary program of cancer research, treatment, patient care, prevention, education, and community outreach.

  • Cancer programs at UCSF have been continuously accredited since 1933 by the Commission on Cancer of the American College of Surgeons, and UCSF is among a select group of institutions that have achieved the highest level of CoC accreditation. The CoC is a consortium of professional organizations dedicated to reducing the morbidity and mortality of cancer through education, standard-setting, and monitoring of quality, multidisciplinary patient care. CoC-approved programs diagnose and treat 80 percent of the individuals who are diagnosed with cancer each year.