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Archive for Friday, July 13, 2012

Heard on the Hill, NCI Edition: Donors contributed to many different parts of cancer effort; KU Cancer Center leader talks about the next step, explains how KU came to achieve designation

July 13, 2012

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• I had a front-row seat at KU’s big cancer announcement on Thursday, and so here are some tidbits that didn’t make the bigger news story I wrote after leaders from across the state (and a few from Washington) came together to mark the occasion.

There were lots of thanks to be doled out, especially to Roy Jensen, director of the KU Cancer Center. Bob Page, CEO of KU Hospital, said Jensen “did it in record time” and that behind every great accomplishment was a great leader.

Also getting some recognition on Thursday were donors behind the effort, whose $107 million contributed to a bunch of stuff for the cancer center: 14 cancer-focused professorships and chairmanships; acquisition of a building that became the KU Clinical Research Center in Fairway; new drug discovery labs; and collaborations among members of the Midwest Cancer Alliance, a 16-member network of hospitals and other health care organizations in Kansas and Missouri.

• That Midwest Cancer Alliance will play a role in KU’s next effort: obtaining comprehensive cancer center status, Jensen told me and a gaggle of other reporters in a room off to the side of the main event Thursday.

Jensen said that of the 67 designated centers, only 41 of them have attained comprehensive status. He used a “supercarrier” analogy to describe the elite status of those centers.

That supercarrier designation happens over a much shorter time frame, Jensen said.

It took about eight years to get to regular NCI designation.

“In essence, we have three years to get to comprehensive status,” he said.

Even though KU will submit its application for the comprehensive status four years from this September, KU will be judged on data compiled during the next three.

The two designations measure different things, so KU will have to remain strong in the areas that got it designated in the first place, along with adding new areas of strength in population-based research (or epidemiology), and outreach efforts.

There, Jensen said, is where having the assistance of the Midwest Cancer Alliance will help them out.

• And one other bit that I didn’t cover much in the main story was how KU came to acquire this designation in the first place.

I know the NCI review committee was impressed with the level of community support and that KU’s drug discovery, development and delivery efforts are top-notch.

“We’ve taken an approach where we want to focus on specific areas of excellence,” Jensen said.

Other areas of strength include breast cancer and bone cancer, Jensen said, along with, to some extent, prostate cancer research.

Those areas will continue to be built up as KU applies for its next designation.

• Even if you don’t want to talk about cancer research and treatment, feel free to drop me a tip for Heard on the Hill at ahyland@ljworld.com.

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