A document of more than 600 pages, five years i
n the making, lay on a small table in the front of the room on Tuesday as state and Kansas University leaders celebrated the submission of their application for designation as a National Cancer Institute.
The application will be filed this week with the NCI, where its approval or denial could rest on how lawmakers decide to address federal budget cuts.
The designation would provide a jolt to the local economy, as well as additional treatment options closer to home for cancer patients.
At a gathering Tuesday morning at the Robert E. Hemenway Life Sciences Innovation Center on the KU Medical Center campus, KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little said she thought KU had done everything right so far with the application.
“After this point, there will be a number of other issues, including the federal budget, that influence what happens, and we can’t say what that’s going to be,” she said. “But I think that we’re at a point that is a celebration point because of what we’ve achieved and because we’ve been a success. And I think the rest of it is up to the good judgment of the people doing the reviews.”
KU hopes to hear next year whether its application was successful.
Barbara Atkinson, executive vice chancellor of KU Medical Center, said she read the entire application document on her vacation last week.
“It took me three and a half days,” she said. “But it was well worth it, because it’s really an exciting application, and I’m proud of it, and I’m proud of the people that helped put it together.”
Roy Jensen, director of the KU Cancer Center, said that while the event was a celebration, the effort isn’t over just yet.
“It’s kind of like crossing the finish line of a marathon,” he said. “And now, come to find out, it’s a triathlon. … Now is the swimming with the sharks phase.”
That’s a reference to the site visit from the NCI, which will occur on Feb. 22.
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback said he was pleased that many people joined forces to support the effort, from both private and public sources.
“This is a tough process, and it is a difficult one. But you can’t even get into the game unless you get built to a certain level,” Brownback said. “That’s what gets us here. We’re getting into the game.”
Jensen will travel to Washington, D.C., this week, where he will talk to policymakers and will push for funding for biomedical research.
“Half a million people die from cancer each and every year, and we put $5 billion toward that war, and we put a trillion dollars toward the war that we never should have fought in the first place,” Jensen said. “That makes no sense.”
Asked what would happen if the application isn’t successful, KU’s chancellor replied succinctly.
“Then we would submit another application at a later time,” she said.
Still, KU leaders remained upbeat on Tuesday.
“Today is a great day. It’s time to celebrate,” Jensen said. “Then when I get home on Friday, it’s time to get back to work.”