Archive for Monday, July 26, 2004

Director to nurture research at cancer center

July 26, 2004


— Roy Jensen wants to make Kansas University a one-stop location for cancer research.

Strengthening each step of the university's cancer program -- from basic research to clinical trials -- would allow scientists to avoid complications that sometimes arise when they collaborate with researchers at other universities.

"Every single time you have to cross institutional barriers, the administrators and lawyers get involved," Jensen said. "Most of the time that's not good."

Jensen in March was named director of the Kansas Masonic Cancer Institute, formerly the Kansas Cancer Institute. It was renamed after the Kansas Masons donated $15 million to research last fall.

He's charged with developing the institute into a Comprehensive Cancer Center designated by the National Cancer Institute, a designation that would draw more federal research funds and clinical trials to KU's Lawrence and medical center campuses.

There currently are 61 NCI-designated institutions in the country.

"NCI designation is sort of analogous to the Good Housekeeping seal of approval," Jensen said.

But getting to that point, he said, will take effort and money. KU administrators have committed to adding 30 positions in cancer research, he said, and a significant portion of KU's money from the Kansas Economic Growth Act likely will be used for institute-related causes.

The act, approved by the 2004 Kansas Legislature, uses growth in tax revenue from bioscience-related companies to fund university research and economic development in life sciences.



Jensen also said he wanted to make it as easy as possible for researchers on the medical center and Lawrence campuses to work together. The institute now is working to put in place video conferencing capabilities between the campuses.

"We view the interactions between people in Lawrence and the people on this campus as superb," said Sheri Dunbar, associate director. "They drive over here a lot. It's not the barrier some people think it might be."

Jensen called the KU School of Pharmacy "one of the outstanding academic institutions in the country" and said translating the school's research into therapeutic treatments would be key to the institute's success.

Ken Audus, dean of the School of Pharmacy, said receiving an NCI designation would add research dollars to the Lawrence campus.

"It raises the visibility of KU and its credibility as an institution, certainly, in the view of our peers," Audus said. "It raises the level of what they think of KU."

Jensen, whose research focuses on breast cancer, came to KU from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn.

He is the institute's first full-time director. The founder and former director, William Jewell, is returning to full-time teaching and research.

The institute includes about 70 university researchers.

Jensen, a 1978 graduate of Gardner High School, said the opportunity to return to his home state was appealing, especially with efforts under way at the Stowers Institute for Biomedical Research in Kansas City, Mo., at KU and at other Kansas City-area businesses and institutions.

"The major attraction is seeing what's here and seeing what the potential is," he said. "Coming back to help realize that potential is a special opportunity."

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