KU Cancer Center designation will boost economy
The Kansas City Star
The designation of The University of Kansas Cancer Center as a National Cancer Institute (NCI) research institution is a huge win for Kansas City and our region.
This prestigious recognition will deliver benefits to our community for generations to come – in terms of lives saved as well as increased economic activity and job growth.
For patients, the NCI designation will improve access to cutting-edge clinical trials, which have been shown to significantly increase survival rates. Instead of traveling to other cities to access these resources, area cancer patients will be able to receive treatment closer to home, putting less stress and cost on them and their families.
New jobs, new businesses In terms of the local economy, the NCI designation will bring millions of dollars in federal grant money to Kansas City, which in turn is expected to stimulate as much as $1.3 billion annually in economic activity and add more than 9,000 jobs.
Those jobs will include well-paid research positions, which will help our community attract the best and brightest researchers in their fields.
As Kansas City builds its reputation as a major medical and life sciences center, additional economic benefits will follow. For example, we anticipate attracting new industries and companies, as well as nurturing more bioscience start-up businesses in our community.
The KU Cancer Center quest for NCI designation began in 2004 with the hiring of Dr. Roy Jensen as director. It was followed by several years of quiet planning and focused work by Dr. Jensen and his colleagues as well as university supporters, civic and business leaders.
By last September, when the application was filed with the NCI, more than $350 million had been raised and invested in attracting top researchers, forming partnerships, improving facilities and expanding clinical trials.
Many behind push for designation Among those deserving our thanks are Johnson County taxpayers, who in 2008 approved the Johnson County Educational Research Triangle. The resulting sales tax generates $5 million a year for research and clinical trials. It is impossible to over-state the importance of this unique, ongoing and stable, locally-generated tax to support the Cancer Institute.
Other important advocates have included former KU chancellor Bob Hemenway, current KU chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little and former executive vice chancellor of KU Medical Center Barbara Atkinson. Support from elected officials and from the Kansas BioScience Authority also have been valuable.
If I could recognize a single individual, however, it would be Dr. Jensen, whose outstanding leadership and quiet determination have been central to the success of the overall effort.
Institutions also have been important to the process. The NCI noted KU’s partnership with regional health care and research facilities such as Truman Medical Center, Children’s Mercy Hospital, the Stowers Institute for Medical Research and hospitals throughout Kansas. In addition, private funders played a significant role in underwriting the push for NCI designation.
Everyone who has been involved in this major public/private partnership to improve the quality of life in our community and region deserves our gratitude and praise for their continuing work to make Kansas City a great place to live and work – now and in the future.
Donald J. Hall, Jr. is president and CEO of Hallmark Cards, Inc.