Kansas University officials are talking to state lawmakers about their plans to build a top-rate cancer program.
Roy Jensen, director of the Kansas Masonic Cancer Research Institute, the cancer research arm of KU Medical Center, said he has been in talks with key legislators and the governor's office about obtaining a federal "comprehensive cancer center" designation for KU.
"I think those discussions are ongoing and proving to be quite fruitful," Jensen said Wednesday.
Achieving the designation from the National Institutes of Health is one of the university's highest goals. The move would make KU's Lawrence and medical center campuses eligible for millions of dollars in federal funding and clinical trials that could bring cutting-edge drugs to area cancer patients.
Jensen has said the initiative will require $350 million. Jensen said organizers will approach the Kansas Bioscience Authority, private philanthropists and other potential funding sources.
Jensen said KU officials are also pressing for ongoing state funding for the project.
"It is a tough budgetary climate," he said. "Our approach will be to outline exactly the scope of the problem. The scope of the problem in Kansas is pretty big."
About 5,300 people die of cancer each year in Kansas, costing the state $1.6 billion annually in medical expenses and lost productivity.
Rep. Brenda Landwehr, R-Wichita, vice chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee, said cancer was a major issue for the state.
"It's probably going to be a matter of sitting down and setting priorities," she said of KU's proposal.
Rep. Jim Morrison, R-Colby and chairman of the health and human services committee, said he supported the plan.
"Anyone who'd be opposed to that would be a dang fool," he said.