Working towards a Cancer-Free Kansas

Roy Jensen, MD, director for The University of Kansas Cancer Center

By Roy Jensen, MD, director for The University of Kansas Cancer Center

Last September, we completed an exhaustive multi-year effort to submit our application to the National Cancer Institute for consideration of: 

  • Renewal of our National Cancer Institute designation
  • The addition of Children’s Mercy as a consortium partner
  • Designation as a Comprehensive Cancer Center

I am pleased to announce that The University of Kansas Cancer Center’s National Cancer Institute (NCI) designation was renewed. Just as significant, Children’s Mercy joined Stowers Institute for Medical Research as a formal consortium partner. 

Stronger together

The addition of Children’s Mercy to our existing partners further strengthens our collective efforts, particularly in addressing pediatric cancer. Children have been identified by NCI as an underserved group in cancer research. With the physicians and researchers at Children’s Mercy focused entirely on pediatrics, we now cover the entire spectrum of cancer patients.

Left to Right: Rand O'Donnell, Children's Mercy Hospital; Roy Jensen, The University of Kansas Cancer Center and David Chao, Stowers Institute

United, we are 350 cancer researchers and clinicians strong. No one in our region comes even close to that. Researchers benefit from the expertise of others, patients benefit from a deeper bench of specialists. 

We did not achieve Comprehensive Cancer Center status – the highest ranking awarded by NCI – this round, but we are not discouraged. Comprehensive Cancer Centers demonstrate an added depth and breadth of research, as well as substantial transdisciplinary research that bridges these scientific areas. 

The NCI believes we are on the right trajectory to becoming a Comprehensive Cancer center. In fact, they will be increasing our annual funding by 11 percent. In recent years, due to funding constraints, other NCI cancer centers have experienced a decrease in NCI grant dollars. This is a testament to the NCI’s utmost confidence in our center, and we are incredibly grateful for the additional funding. 

We’ve made great progress, but we are not settling

In reviewing our most recent application, I am so very proud of how far we have come. We have devoted ourselves to building a world-class cancer center and are well on our way to accomplishing that goal.

Now, patients have expanded access to the latest, cutting-edge cancer treatments. Since 2010, we have enrolled more than 20,000 participants in clinical trials. So far this year, we have opened 54 new clinical trials. On any given day, there are more than 130 active clinical trials available to our patients.

Over the last decade we have received more than $423 million in federal funding to support research endeavors. 

Efforts around patient advocacy have also ramped up. Last year we launched PIVOT, which connects patients with investigators so we can better tailor our research efforts to meet patient needs.

Finally, because so much of our catchment area is spread across a large geographic area, we continue to expand our reach into the most rural parts of Kansas with our outreach partner, the Midwest Cancer Alliance. The Midwest Cancer Alliance has screened more than 20,000 people for cancer since 2008. 

All of this activity and progress means one thing to a patient being treated at an NCI-designated cancer center: a 25% greater chance of survival. Because of KU Cancer Center, patients have access to the very best in cancer care close to home. 

But we are not resting on our laurels. The NCI’s feedback on our application serves as our roadmap moving forward. We will continue to build on the core features that define a Comprehensive Cancer Center, which include: 

  • Driving scientific discovery 
  • Translating discovery to benefit patients 
  • Changing the practice of medicine 
  • Impacting public policy 
  • Training the next generation of clinicians and researchers 

Thank you to our team and supporters

None of this would be possible without the collective strength of our talented and multi-disciplinary team. In a short amount of time we have made incredible strides towards becoming a national leader in cancer care and research. 

A cancer center does not experience this kind of growth without the support of its community, donors and policymakers. There is a great deal more to do, and I want to thank each and every one of you for your continued support and commitment.

We have a bold vision: a cancer-free Kansas and beyond. In the fight against cancer, our reach must exceed our grasp. Working together, I have no doubt that we will ultimately achieve Comprehensive Cancer Center status and, more importantly, that we will one day defeat cancer.