KU Cancer Center applies for highest National Cancer Institute designation

KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- The University of Kansas Cancer Center is one 69 centers recognized by the National Cancer Institute. On Monday, KU applied for an even higher NCI designation.

Think of it like baseball: KU Cancer Center's director, Dr. Roy Jensen, said the center has been in the big leagues for the past four years as an NCI-designated center. Now it wants to be an all-star as a comprehensive center. KU would join 46 top centers including M.D. Anderson and Mayo Clinic.

It would potentially bring even more patients in from far away and keep more close to home. Elaine Jones of Gardner has advanced ovarian cancer and has taken part in clinical trials at KU.

"I just feel so lucky that it's in my area and I don't have that far to travel," Jones said.

KU submitted 16 chapters of evidence that it should be an all-star. The application emphasized cancer prevention and control efforts, but also research and treatment.

"Fifteen ideas that got started in KU Cancer Center have now been moved into the clinic as phase one clinical trials. That's a record that very few institutions can even come close to," said Dr. Jensen.

He said that since efforts for the first designation began, research alone has resulted in $2.6 billion for the region's economy.

"Some people have characterized it as one of the best ways to have your cake and eat it, too."

Jones is getting cutting edge immunotherapy.

"In fact, I feel better now than I have in a long time," she said.

KU Cancer Center will find out next summer whether it receives the highest designation. The application asks that Children's Mercy Hospital be named a consortium partner with KU. The Stowers Institute is already one.