Cautious optimism has shifted to tentative celebration as officials await the formal announcement that Kansas University Medical Center has been approved as a National Cancer Institute comprehensive cancer center.
Word spread Thursday from Sen. Pat Roberts’ office that KU’s application for the coveted designation had been approved. KU officials confirmed later in the day that a formal announcement regarding NCI had been scheduled for July 12.
This is exciting news for KUMC and the entire state. In 2005, KU declared that achieving NCI status would be its top research priority. Since that time, KU Cancer Center officials and others have worked tirelessly to compile the team, the partnerships and the financing to support their NCI application, which was submitted last September.
The state, through annual appropriations and funding from the Kansas Bioscience Authority, has invested tens of millions of dollars in the cancer center’s efforts to develop state-of-the-art facilities and hire world-class researchers. The Hall Family Foundation and the Kansas Masonic Foundation and other private sources provided additional tens of millions of dollars to the cause. In all, KU officials estimate $350 million has been invested in their effort to obtain NCI designation. The project, they say, already has created more than 1,100 jobs and contributed $453 million to the region’s economy.
The economic benefits of an NCI center are immense, but they pale in comparison to the human benefits. The designation would mean more federal research dollars and more high-paying research jobs at the KU Cancer Center, but it also would mean the center would be able to offer new, cutting-edge cancer treatments to patients in the state and region. Patients at KU would have access to clinical trials open only to patients at the prestigious NCI-designated centers.
The NCI Cancer Center program has been described by KU officials as “the gold standard for cancer institutes across the country.” To set the goal of joining that elite group and reach that goal less than eight years later would be a huge accomplishment for the KU Cancer Center and all the public and private entities that have supported this effort.
The state will be eagerly awaiting the July 12 announcement and preparing for a well-deserved public celebration of KU’s official NCI designation.