This week we mark a milestone in the University of Kansas’ drive to cure cancer.
In 2005, achieving National Cancer Institute designation for The University of Kansas Cancer Center was declared KU’s top research priority, a goal that captured the imagination of Kansans and gained the strong support of our state’s leaders. Now, after investing countless hours and more than $350 million, we are ready to submit our application.
I call this event a milestone rather than a culmination, because our work is far from over. First, there is no guarantee that a cancer center will receive NCI designation on its first application. But even if there were, our true mission has always been to deliver advanced treatments and cures to patients closer to home.
On that mission, we have already made tremendous progress, thanks in part to the inspiration of the patients and families who have been touched by cancer.
Each of us knows someone who has been affected by cancer. As we’ve prepared the NCI application, we’ve asked people to tell us their stories of how cancer has touched their lives, and how achieving NCI designation is important to them and to our region.
One was from a son whose father died from a brain tumor. In the three months between his father’s diagnosis and passing, much of that time was spent not with family, but on the road from Abilene, Kan., to Houston because in the late 1990s treatments for that type of cancer weren’t available any closer. The son is inspired by our effort because through the Midwest Cancer Alliance, we’re making advanced treatments available in communities throughout the region.
A woman from Shawnee diagnosed with uterine cancer wrote in a day after her first visit to the KU Cancer Center. She said she’s filled with confidence because she knows she can get the same level of care at KU that she would anywhere else in the country.
And several people wrote to say how the KU Cancer Center helped them beat cancer and go on to live healthy, active and cancer-free lives. One woman from Lee’s Summit, Mo., who was treated for bone cancer as a child has been cancer-free for 21 years, giving her the chance to have a child of her own.
These stories, and the stories shared during the remarkable KU Cancer Center television special, are what motivate us. We are driven both by the stories of hope, because they show us what is already possible, and the stories of sadness, because they serve as a reminder of how much more there is to do.
The benefits of NCI designation are tremendous. But this process can already be considered a success since it has led to the creation of a major regional asset that is generating scientific discoveries, delivering state-of-the-art patient care and driving economic development.
We are at this milestone thanks to the support of state and local policymakers, philanthropists, and the people of Kansas, as well as the leadership of Dr. Roy Jensen and his colleagues.
As I said, we celebrate a milestone this week. The true culmination of our efforts will come on that day when we are able to say we have cured cancer. Thanks to the work done these past few years, that day is closer than ever before.