The University of Kansas Cancer Center is on an urgent journey to prevent and cure all cancers. Their quest is personal because cancer affects all of us. Nearly everyone has been touched by the tragedy of this disease through family, friends, neighbors or co-workers. And the impact to our society continues to escalate — the number of cancer diagnoses is expected to increase by as much as 50% in the next 10 years. One in 2 men and 1 in 3 women will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetimes.
It is vital for people in our communities to receive world-class cancer care close to home because lives are at stake. KU Cancer Center reached a significant milestone in 2012 by achieving National Cancer Institute (NCI) designation, one of only 71 in the nation. Designation matters because patients who go to NCI-Designated Cancer Centers have a 25% greater chance of survival.
Although it was a significant accomplishment, this was just the first step in KU Cancer Center’s journey. They aspire to achieve NCI Comprehensive designation, the premier ranking awarded to the very best cancer centers.
There is more to do
“Comprehensive Cancer Center status is not just about achieving a higher level of designation — it is about expanding research and prevention activities and improving the health of the people in our communities,” said Roy Jensen, M.D., KU Cancer Center director. “It is about stopping cancer before it starts.”
KU Cancer Center recently launched “Within Reach: The Quest to Conquer All Cancers,” a campaign to rally support for the effort. Private partnerships and philanthropy are needed to help them do more. With more research, education and prevention, clinical trials and treatments, lives will be saved.
“Cancer is profoundly personal, and each member of our Within Reach team is committed to bringing the next level of research and cancer care to our area,” Jensen said.
Research is key
Nearly all new cancer treatments developed since 1971 originated from research conducted at NCI-Designated Cancer Centers. Research will ultimately defeat this disease — physicians and scientists with strong clinical expertise and a passion for discovery are essential for meaningful advances. KU Cancer Center aims to add more experts to the team, with a particular focus on physician-scientists who treat patients and conduct academic research.
“My studies stem from my experience treating patients,” said Anwaar Saeed, M.D., a KU Cancer Center physician-scientist and associate professor. “I witness their struggles, and it motivates me to do more.”
Clinical trials are another important part of the discovery process. Most cancer treatments used today were studied and made available to patients through clinical research and trials. In the last six years, KU Cancer Center researchers have advanced seven new cancer drugs into clinical trials. Being able to offer the latest clinical trials available gives patients more options for innovative therapy and more hope for survival.
“Translating lab discoveries to the clinic requires a significant amount of research dollars,” Saeed said. “As an NCI-Designated Cancer Center, achieving comprehensive status supports more research investment and higher chances of bench-to-bedside discoveries. We look forward to the day when the majority of cancer patients are treated based on their tumor molecular signature.”
Education and outreach
According to the American Institute of Cancer Research, nearly 50% of all cancers are preventable. KU Cancer Center is a leader in educating the public and promoting cancer prevention strategies, including early screening. They have plans to strengthen these programs and also are expanding access through the Masonic Cancer Alliance network of hospitals and health care organizations across Kansas and western Missouri. KU Cancer Center experts share knowledge and resources with these partners to ensure geography isn’t a barrier to receiving the latest information and cancer treatments.
A home for science
Plans are underway for a new cancer research facility that will bring scientists together in one location. Currently, labs and researchers are scattered across the Kansas City metro area. This was noted by the NCI as an area KU Cancer Center needs to address to strengthen their application for comprehensive designation. The future building will be dedicated to cancer research and care, with space allocated for growth. It will unite researchers across scientific disciplines and encourage collaboration.
“We need a space that supports our vision to conquer all cancers,” Jensen said. “The new facility will support true team science, allowing us to pool the expertise and resources of many. Research becomes transformative when we break down the silos and come together.”
A core team of KU Cancer Center supporters and community members are mapping out a strategy to raise funds for the facility. Once funded, construction will take about three years.
Anwaar Saeed, M.D.
Partners for the journey
“Earning NCI Comprehensive designation is the world’s most prestigious institutional honor in oncology, awarded to just 1% of cancer centers nationwide,” said Terry Tsue, M.D., KU Cancer Center physician in chief. “It will have a lasting impact on our community and our region for generations to come. It means we will have more resources allocated to finding cures and be able to recruit the brightest stars in cancer care and research.”
Achieving this important designation will only be possible with the community’s support and involvement. KU Cancer Center aims to do nothing less than fundamentally transform the cancer experience — to give people in the region greater access to breakthrough ideas, novel treatments and cancer prevention strategies. Together, conquering cancer is Within Reach.
Bench to Bedside Facebook Live
Join Roy Jensen, M.D., and other experts from The University of Kansas Cancer Center on Facebook Live every Wednesday at 10 a.m. CST to learn about the latest news and developments related to cancer care, clinical trials and research.
The University of Kansas Cancer Center’s Impact
- Unmatched expertise close to home
- 350 cancer researchers and clinicians
- 150 disease-specific oncologists
- 25,000+ people enrolled in clinical trials since 2010
- Manage nearly 600 clinical trials
- Actively enrolling patients in 250 trials
- 350 bone marrow transplants annually
- Research boosts the economy
- $459 million in federal research funding since 2007
- $2.5 billion contributed to the regional economy and 4,100 jobs (2007–2022)
You can help
Physician in Chief, The University of Kansas Cancer Center