Kansas City, Kan. Eleven leaders from hospitals and health systems in the Kansas City area and across Kansas formally agreed Tuesday to work together toward achieving two ambitious goals.
First: Secure a National Cancer Institute designation for the Kansas University Cancer Center.
Second: Cure cancer itself.
"The goal we share, to bring NCI designation to our region, has one outcome in mind: to end suffering and death from cancer," said Dr. Roy Jensen, director of the center. "Today, with this agreement, we mark the end of the beginning in our quest to attain NCI designation.
"Our dream is taking shape. ... The beginning of the end of cancer for this region - our region - begins here and now."
The leaders gathered Tuesday morning to sign an official charter forming the Midwest Cancer Alliance Partners Advisory Board, a collaborative effort to help KU's center become the 64th to earn designation from the institute.
Supporters of the effort say that such a designation would generate added grants, research efforts, employment, expertise and other benefits for the region, from the Kansas City area to Wichita and beyond. If achieved, the designation would be expected to create 9,400 jobs and produce $1.3 billion of annual economic benefits.
Jensen is the advisory board's chief executive officer, while former Lt. Gov. Gary Sherrer, a member of the Kansas Board of Regents, serves as chairman.
Sherrer looked upon Tuesday's signing ceremony at the KU School of Nursing with pride, knowing that it's never easy to bring together the leaders of so many operations - often competing ones at that - to work on a common goal.
Cancer will do that.
"It's like the United Nations," Sherrer said, looking out at a crowd that included top executives from St. Luke's Health System, KU Hospital, KU Medical Center, Truman Medical Center, Stormont-Vail HealthCare, Kansas State University, Children's Mercy Hospitals and Clinics, the Stowers Institute for Medical Research, Via Christi Health Systems and the Kansas Bioscience Authority. "They're all sovereign nations, coming together for a common cause.
"It's been a challenge, but the results of this alliance will be absolutely amazing."
Jensen said that an announcement would be made Nov. 13 about when the effort's application for designation would be submitted to the National Cancer Institute.