The common thread between all hospitals ranked by the National Cancer Institute is research, as of 2015. The NCI has three levels of cancer centers: comprehensive cancer centers, cancer centers and basic laboratory cancer centers.
There are 45 comprehensive cancer centers in the United States, many of which have ties to university hospitals. These institutions are responsible for conducting crucial studies from a broad spectrum of research subjects. With information gathered from research in laboratories, clinical trials and behavioral and population-based studies, the NCI’s cooperative groups try to bridge the gap and stay on the forefront of modern cancer treatment.
Comprehensive cancer centers initiate innovative clinical trials and recruit new patients for the research. The centers must show expertise in all aspects of the NCI’s work. In addition to lab studies and patient treatment, these institutions actively promote new advancements in medicine to educate professionals and the public about the benefits of the breakthroughs.
Seventeen cancer centers continue the work that the leadership organization starts, conducting laboratory research, clinical trials and patient treatment based on the comprehensive cancer centers' examples.
Some cancer centers are also basic laboratory cancer centers, and the seven with the accreditation only conduct laboratory research and clinical trials without treating cancer patients.