NCI Cancer Bulletin: A Trusted Source for Cancer Research News
NCI Cancer Bulletin: A Trusted Source for Cancer Research News
March 15, 2005 • Volume 2 / Number 11 E-Mail This Document  |  Download PDF  |  Bulletin Archive/Search  |  Subscribe

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History of the Cancer Center Program

Cancer Patient Education Network Set to Expand Mission

Coming Soon: Cancer
Center Profiles

Now that you've learned about the "why" and "how" of the NCI Cancer Centers Program, look forward to learning about "who" the Cancer Centers are through a new Bulletin feature, Cancer Center Profiles.

These profiles will run approximately every 6 weeks and provide an overview of each NCI-designated Cancer Center, with information about their history, clinical specialties, research activities, and new programs of interest to patients, investigators, and health care professionals.

Tentative schedule:

  • April 19 - University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (PA)
  • May 31 - Mayo Clinic Cancer Center (MN)
  • June 12 - UNMC Eppley Cancer Center (NE)
  • August 16 - Siteman Cancer Center (MO)
  • October 18 - Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center (TN)
NCI founded the Cancer Patient Education Network (CPEN) in 1989 as an informal network of patient educators at NCI-designated Cancer Centers. "It was a small cadre of folks who wanted to share ideas and opinions, tools, products, and programs," says Lenora Johnson, director of NCI's Office of Education and Special Initiatives. But now, with more than 100 members from 54 Cancer Centers - as well as an offshoot Canadian version of CPEN - the network is setting forth in 2005 as an independent professional organization, expanding its outreach and providing expertise to cancer educators throughout the United States. Diane D. Cole recalls some of the early days of CPEN, which she joined in 1996 after becoming an education coordinator for the University of Virginia Cancer Center. "There were only about 30 people at the annual meeting that year," she says, "but I really found it to be an incredible opportunity to learn so much from the experiences of the other people. I was drawn in very quickly to CPEN because the networking opportunities are invaluable." In addition to networking opportunities, another primary benefit CPEN offers members is its online listserv forum. Cole says the listserv was especially helpful when she submitted a call for advice on planning the redesign of her NCI-designated Cancer Center's Web site. "I wanted to know how other centers handled the patient education component on their Web sites," she says, "and we received 11 responses. I don't know any other way I could've gotten that type of expert advice so quickly and easily." CPEN's growth and success has forced a rethinking of the group's status as an NCI-supported and -managed network. They have outgrown their informal status and transformed into a true professional organization, Lenora Johnson says. "We've spent the last few years working with CPEN on carving out an independent identity and a role for the organization in the larger context of cancer education." Key to that independence and new identity is CPEN's decision to include cancer patient educators outside of NCI-designated Cancer Centers. This includes promoting access to the listserv and inviting all cancer educators to CPEN's annual meeting in November at the Wake Forest Comprehensive Cancer Center in North Carolina. Those who are interested in working with CPEN can find out more at; the organization will launch a revamped Web site - independent of NCI's site - in a few months. Jean A. Just, patient education director at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center, says the new site will include "a section on evidence-based practices. The site will also provide current news and information about the field, including updates on the annual meeting as well as minutes from our different committee meetings, and different education tools that we've developed that might be useful to others."

By Bill Robinson