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The University of Kansas Cancer Center earns National Cancer Institute’s most prestigious status—Comprehensive

NCI recognition as a Comprehensive cancer center is the culmination of years of community effort and means that KU Cancer Center joins the top echelon of leading cancer experts.

Senator Jerry Moran and Dr. Roy Jensen stand together on a spiral staircase in the Hemenway Building.
The National Cancer Institute named The University of Kansas Cancer Center a Comprehensive center, which opens more doors for researchers seeking funding. It also helps to attract and retain internationally renowned researchers and physician-scientists.

The University of Kansas Cancer Center has been designated as a “Comprehensive” cancer center by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). This is the highest level of recognition awarded by the NCI and is the gold standard for cancer centers.

“Nearly 20 years ago, this entire community joined together and decided that national designation, and ultimately Comprehensive designation, of our cancer center was our top priority as a region. It was our moonshot,” said Douglas A. Girod, M.D., chancellor of the University of Kansas.

“Well, today we’ve landed on the moon, so to speak. What was once a dream is now a reality. And that reality means better patient care, better health outcomes and better research,” Girod said. “And it means we are one step closer to our ultimate goal – which is to rid our society of cancer so that we all have the opportunity to live happier, healthier lives.”

Outstanding rating and $13.8 million grant

In addition to Comprehensive status, the KU Cancer Center was awarded a five-year, $13.8 million grant to support the center’s research programs, shared equipment and resources. It also received an “outstanding” rating by NCI reviewers.

“Comprehensive designation is a crucial milestone in our journey to conquer all cancers,” said Roy Jensen, M.D., director of the KU Cancer Center. “You might ask, ‘What does Comprehensive designation mean for people with cancer?’ As one of just 53 NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers in the nation, it means patients will be cared for by the world’s leading cancer experts who have access to a robust portfolio of clinical trials.

“It also means we now have increased access to more federal funding and research dollars,” Jensen said, “which helps us grow and retain our team of internationally renowned researchers and physician-scientists.”

$2.5 billion in economic impact since 2007

The University of Kansas Cancer Center has nearly 350 researchers and 150 disease-specific oncologists. They conduct all phases of cancer research, from laboratory studies to clinical trials to population-based studies that address environmental and behavioral factors that contribute to cancer.

Research operations at the KU Cancer Center have already contributed an estimated $2.5 billion in economic impact to the region since 2007 when the center began working toward NCI designation in earnest. It’s estimated that those numbers will only increase with the anticipated expansion that will accompany the KU Cancer Center achieving Comprehensive designation. University leaders note that the growth of the cancer center has contributed to additional advancements at the university.

“Two decades ago, when KU Medical Center leadership decided to focus on cancer research, there were some who worried that other areas might be left behind,” said Robert D. Simari, M.D., executive vice chancellor of the University of Kansas Medical Center.

“However, it has never been more true that rising tides raise all ships,” Simari said. “With the success of the cancer center, centers of excellence in Alzheimer’s disease, kidney disease, diabetes, aging and many others have flourished.”

Cancer Center partners contribute to success

The Stowers Institute for Medical Research and Children’s Mercy Kansas City are consortium partners with the KU Cancer Center, while The University of Kansas Health System is a clinical partner.

“This designation from the National Cancer Institute confirms the excellence of The University of Kansas Cancer Center and underscores the importance of research, combined with exceptional clinical care,” said Alejandro Sánchez Alvarado, Ph.D., executive director and chief scientific officer of the Stowers Institute for Medical Research.

“Science at Stowers is deliberately designed to make the important biological discoveries that can lead to potential new treatments and eventual cures for cancer and other diseases,” he continued. “We are honored to participate with the KU Cancer Center and Children’s Mercy in this most auspicious endeavor.”

“This designation will strengthen the region’s research environment and fast-track new and improved cancer treatments for patients, including children,” said Paul Kempinski, M.S., FACHE, president and chief executive officer of Children’s Mercy Kansas City.

“Of the 5,000 cancer treatment centers nationwide, very few have partnered with a pediatric hospital as part of its consortium,” he explained. “Working together, we can continue to bring the very best that science and technology have to offer for children with cancer.”

Power of collaboration in research, education and patient care

Bob Page, president and chief executive officer of The University of Kansas Health System, noted that the quest for Comprehensive status has been a collective effort. “Today is a celebration of the power of collaboration,” he said. “It’s about bringing together our organizations’ strengths in research, education and patient care to demonstrate the remarkable impact of academic medicine.”

With Comprehensive designation, the outreach activities of the KU Cancer Center are expected to expand across its catchment area—defined as the state of Kansas and western Missouri—even more.

“We are so pleased with and proud of the work being done across the KU Cancer Center’s catchment area at our Masonic Cancer Alliance (MCA) member sites,” said Gary Doolittle, M.D., professor of clinical oncology and director of the MCA. “As the outreach network of KU Cancer Center, MCA sites have done a tremendous job for more than a decade now bringing outreach activities to their communities, offering access to clinical trials to their patients close to home, participating in professional development and much more.”


"As one of just 53 NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers in the nation, it means patients will be cared for by the world’s leading cancer experts who have access to a robust portfolio of clinical trials."
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