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University of Kansas Medical Center National Cancer Institute Designation


Location: Kansas City, KS

I am proud to be back in Kansas today to formally award the University of Kansas Cancer Center with the prestigious designation as a National Cancer Institute Cancer Center. Congratulations!

Cancer centers are our country's elite cancer research facilities. Selected through a rigorous process by the National Cancer Institute -- one of the National Institutes of Health -- they serve as America's engine of discovery about the nature of cancer and the development of more effective approaches to prevention, diagnosis and treatment. Nearly every new cancer drug brought to market in the past decade has been based on research conducted at one of these centers.

That the Kansas University Medical Center is now joining this select group is a tribute to the world-class work that you do.

This celebration is a culmination of the contributions, investments and donations of many leaders and partners. I participated in the launch of this project. Former Chancellor Bob Hemenway and Vice Chancellor Barbara Atkinson played key leadership roles within the University and community, and determined that the NCI-designation would be a top KU priority. A key element of this success was recruiting back to Kansas a native super-star, Dr. Roy Jensen, to head the effort in 2004.

Our 2006 State budget made an initial $5 million investment to help kick-off this journey. And the ongoing strategic and financial support -- over $50 million - from the Kansas Bioscience Authority, provided critical resources for this project.

Today, the National Cancer Institute designation makes KU researchers even more competitive as they seek federal and philanthropic support, bringing millions in additional funding to the area.

For patients and their families in Kansas and the region, today's announcement means access to the best medical and scientific expertise available. Last year, hundreds of thousands of patients across the U.S. received treatment at NCI cancer centers.

For the state's economy, the NCI designation means new opportunities for growth. Since 2006, university leaders estimate that the effort to earn the National Cancer Institute designation has created more than 1,000 jobs and contributed $453 million to the region's economy.

And for Kansas doctors and scientists, or other promising scientists and practicioners, it means that, when they begin looking for the best place to study, train, teach, and practice, they can start right here in the Sunflower State.

But most importantly of all, this center will be an important addition to a national research network that is generating promising breakthroughs in our battle against cancer.

Where once, we relied on carpet-bombing treatments - a "one-size fits all" brute force chemo-therapy that couldn't distinguish between healthy and cancerous cells -- today, thanks to research at institutions like this, we are moving steadily toward more precise diagnostic tests and targeted therapies.

Almost all of us will be touched by cancer at some point in our lives. For me, the first experience came when I was 11 and watched my 33-year old aunt die of breast cancer, leaving behind her five children.

Every year, cancer takes the lives of more than 575,000 Americans. And with nearly 12 million Americans living with cancer today and another one and a half million expected to get a new cancer diagnosis at some point this year, it has never been more urgent that our work to prevent cancer, develop more effective detection methods, deliver better treatments, and give us the means to control cancer.

That is why this moment is so promising, not just for the University of Kansas, but for everyone committed to the fight against cancer. Over the last few decades we have made real progress saving countless lives and sparking incredible new discoveries. We have more hard work ahead, and thanks to your commitment and leadership, it continues today, right here in the heartland of the country.

Congratulations. Rock Chalk, Jayhawk!

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