KANSAS CITY, KAN. Gov. Kathleen Sebelius on Friday called for the Legislature to earmark $5 million annually to help push the Cancer Center at the Kansas University Medical Center into the top tier of national prominence.
"This is a great opportunity we have to make a real difference," Sebelius said during a news conference at the medical center. "We see this not as a one-time investment, but hopefully as a long-term commitment."
Sebelius will present her proposed state budget to the Legislature on Tuesday as its 2006 session begins.
The university is aiming for federal cancer center designation within five years.
The KU Cancer Center more than doubled its size in 2003, adding 30,000 square feet and a new home for breast cancer treatment.
Receiving the federal cancer center designation 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.
Senate President Steve Morris, R-Hugoton, said he supported the governor's plan.
"I believe that this commitment will be good for Kansas City and also good for the state of Kansas," he said. "I'm glad to see the fight against cancer made a high priority."
Roy Jensen, director of the Kansas Masonic Cancer Research Institute, the cancer research arm of KU Medical Center, has said the initiative would require $350 million.
Jensen said the state support would help jump-start the effort.
Barbara Atkinson, executive vice chancellor for KU's Medical Center, said the university also needed to find a major private donor who wanted his or her name on the center.
KU Chancellor Robert Hemenway, who was out of state at a conference Friday, said in a prepared statement: "Kansas families facing a diagnosis of cancer deserve access to state-of-the-art treatment near enough to home that it doesn't require uprooting their lives to battle the disease. There is no higher priority for us, and we deeply appreciate the governor's support."