Kansas City, Mo. Kansas University Cancer Center announced Thursday that the National Cancer Institute had given it the green light to apply for its cancer center designation. KU will formally apply on Sept. 25, 2011.
"This is a great day for the University of Kansas," said Dr. Karen Kelly, deputy director of the center.
Linda Weiss, chairwoman of NCI's Cancer Centers Program, said KU is one of 20 centers competing for the designation. Currently, there are 64 centers that have it.
If achieved, the designation would generate added grants, research efforts, employment and expertise.
It is expected to create 9,400 jobs and produce $1.3 billion in annual economic benefits.
Of course, the ultimate goal is to find better treatments and cure cancer.
"It really is a merging of the research focus and cancer care," Weiss said. "There are many community hospitals that are providing exceptional cancer care to patients. The NCI-designated cancer center is unique in its research mission. : It is really at the forefront in terms of trying to ensure that new approaches are being developed to what is in fact many diseases and those are being delivered to patients."
On Thursday, Weiss toured KU Medical Center and KU Hospital and offered advice. She said while KU has made progress, there's work to be done. Among her recommendations were hiring more scientists to garner more cancer research grants, and adding patients to clinical trials.
Kelly said she didn't see any problems in achieving those recommendations and getting the application in on time.
"I think everybody sees this as just going to be great for the state of Kansas. Everybody's lives are in some way affected by cancer," Kelly said. "Only through research will we be able to lead to those cures."
Weiss expects KU to learn whether or not it earned the designation by May 2012. Once it does, it will have to reapply every five years.