KU's cancer center designation is a big victory
The Kansas City Star
The University of Kansas Cancer Center is officially among the elite of the nation’s cancer research and treatment facilities.
The National Cancer Institute designation, formally announced Thursday by U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, is a signature achievement.
As U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran said at a ceremony, “It changes the character of who we are as a state and creates opportunities that otherwise would never have occurred.”
The assertion isn’t a politician’s hyperbole. The decision means that the brightest and most ambitious cancer researchers and doctors will be attracted by the expanded opportunities available.
Millions of federal and philanthropic dollars can be expected to flow in for research and clinical trials.
Most important, many cancer patients in this area won’t have to travel to other cities to seek the best advice and latest protocols.
The designation was a long time in the making. Perhaps the most significant event was the 2004 hiring of Roy A. Jensen, a nationally known cancer researcher from the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center. A $20 million grant from the Kansas Masonic Foundation got the effort started.
Jensen turned out to be as talented a politician as he is a physician. He set about turning rivalries into alliances, impressing donors and cajoling public officials.
In 2007, Jensen and others formed the Midwest Cancer Alliance, a network of hospitals, clinics and research entities that built the region’s capacity for performing clinical trials and caring for cancer patients. That proved to be a turning point in the drive for NCI designation.
The University of Kansas Cancer Center also benefited from a research partnership with the Stowers Institute for Medical Research; from Johnson County voters’ approval of a sales tax increase to boost higher education and research; from the assistance of the Kansas Bioscience Authority; and from multiple philanthropic gifts.
Research grants and clinical trial opportunities have also arrived. As Jensen said, the Cancer Center has been functioning as a top research and care facility for some time.
The NCI designation, awarded to 67 facilities around the nation, simply makes it official.
The next step is to compete for an even more selective designation — that of an NCI comprehensive cancer center.
Earning laurels is satisfying. Moving beyond is even better