CDC recognizes North Dakota Statewide Cancer Registry

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News Article

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Campus Unit

School of Medicine & Health Sciences


GRAND FORKS, N.D.—The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recognized the North Dakota Statewide Cancer Registry as a CDC National Program of Cancer Registries Registry of Excellence.

"Of the 48 cancer registries supported by the CDC, your state is one of 15 who achieved this designation for the most recent data submission, indicating the high-quality data available for cancer prevention and control activities at the local, regional, and national levels," said Christie Eheman, PhD, MSHP, chief of the Cancer Surveillance Branch in the Division of Cancer Prevention and Control at the CDC, in the letter announcing the recognition. Eheman leads the National Program of Cancer Registries.

In July of 2012, the CDC awarded a $1.65 million five-year grant to the UND School of Medicine and Health Sciences, in collaboration with the North Dakota Department of Health, to operate the North Dakota Statewide Cancer Registry. UND experts in the Department of Pathology supervise the registry, which serves to provide a cancer early warning system for the state.

In the 1990s, realizing the need to better track cancers and chronic diseases, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention set up a system where all states report cancer statistics—the type, stage and treatment—to the CDC to be used for public health studies, research and to establish evidence for the effectiveness of treatments; for example, does PSA screening help reduce prostate cancer deaths? To aid participation in the CDC system, the North Dakota Legislature requires all hospitals, laboratories, physicians and other health care providers to report all newly diagnosed or treated cancer patients to the North Dakota Statewide Cancer Registry. Information in the registry is highly secured, and patients are never identified.

The purpose of the North Dakota registry, established in 1997, is to monitor cancer trends, promote research, increase survival, guide policy planning and respond to cancer concerns from patients or the public. But the wealth of data compiled in the registry would lie useless until analyzed and translated into usable information for health care facilities, patients and the public. The North Dakota Department of Health reached out to the UND SMHS and asked if it could form a collaboration to run the registry. The health department knew the SMHS's Department of Pathology already maintained an invaluable tissue bank used in researching environmental influences on specific cancers as well as other collaborative efforts for public and population health of North Dakota, such as the provision of death investigation and forensic pathology services.

"This is a remarkable achievement for our state and demonstrates excellence in the important endeavor of assuring cancer care, treatment and surveillance for this disease affecting so many people and families in North Dakota," said Mary Ann Sens, M.D., Ph.D., professor and chair of UND's Department of Pathology, who serves as the program director. "The registry helps North Dakotan families and communities by assuring accurate data and trends in our state and helps plan for cancer prevention and treatment with our data to serve our population."

"This award of excellence typifies the efforts of the School of Medicine and Health Sciences to provide outstanding health services to the people of North Dakota through collaboration," said Joshua Wynne, M.D., M.B.A., M.P.H., UND vice president for Health Affairs and dean of the UND SMHS. "By effectively partnering with North Dakota's Department of Health, Dr. Sens and her colleagues are delivering state-of-the-art cancer surveillance throughout the state. They deserve our thanks and gratitude for their outstanding service."

Operating the program are Assistant Professor Lucy Zheng, M.D., and Xudong Zhou, M.D., both from the Department of Pathology. They gather and maintain high quality cancer surveillance data; cooperate with cancer registrars from hospitals throughout North Dakota; provide surveillance data to the CDC, observe local trends in cancer prevention, detection and treatment; and investigate cancer clusters, which are the incidences of specific cancers within a group of people, a geographic area or a period in numbers much greater than expected by chance alone. Assistant Professor Cristina Oancea, M.S., Ph.D., an epidemiologist, in the Master of Public Health Program at the SMHS, provides statistical analysis of the data generated by the registry's researchers.

The information technology infrastructure and support for the registry is provided by the Information Resources Department at the UND SMHS under the direction of Nasser Hammami, chief information officer, and Michael Fiebelkorn, systems administrator.

"Each central cancer registry is crucial to the success of cancer surveillance in the United States," Eheman said. "Many advances in cancer surveillance in the United States would have been impossible without the tireless efforts and many achievements of these organizations.”

Additional information on the North Dakota Statewide Cancer Registry can be found at