Kansas University officials announced Thursday that the Kansas Masonic Foundation has given more than $500,000 for a professorship that could help make KU's Kansas Cancer Institute into one of the country's top ranks of cancer research centers.
The Masonic foundation's gift to the KU Endowment Association established the William R. Jewell, M.D., Distinguished Kansas Masonic Professorship.
A search is under way for candidates. KU hopes to recruit an internationally recognized researcher to run the institute full time.
The professorship honors Jewell, director of the Kansas City, Kan., institute and KU professor of surgery, for his longtime dedication to cancer research and treatment.
Jewell, who has been the institute's director since 1996, has divided his time between the institute and the KU Department of Surgery, where he is a practicing oncology surgeon.
The professorship will provide support to hire a full-time director, a requirement to achieve National Cancer Institute status, Jewell said. The NCI, which is one of 27 divisions of the National Institutes of Health, awards the designation to cancer centers for the quality and level of their cancer research.
"There are only 61 such centers -- most of them concentrated on the East and West Coasts -- so currently citizens of this region must travel to St. Louis, Omaha or Dallas to find an NCI-designated center," Jewell said. "This designation would also mean the ability to attract and retain world-renowned cancer researchers to Kansas City, and provide our patients access to clinical trials being conducted only at these top-tier research and clinical care centers."
KU's Kansas Cancer Institute is a part of the School of Medicine at the KU Medical Center in Kansas City, Kan. The institute is affiliated with the Kansas Cancer Center, a clinical care facility in the University of Kansas Hospital.
KU Chancellor Robert Hemenway said Jewell helped mold the institute into a well-known and nationally respected research facility. "It is wonderful that the Kansas Masonic Foundation has generously chosen to honor his commitment to cancer research and education," Hemenway said.
Mark Nelson, executive director of the foundation, said the cancer institute has the means to change lives.
"It was important to our organization to make sure that Dr. Jewell continues to be recognized for his dedication to finding a cure for cancer and for building a nationally recognized program in cancer research at the KU Medical Center," Nelson said.