With the infusion of $10 million in philanthropic support, two of the region’s largest medical centers have established four high-level research positions aimed at making Kansas City an international hub in the fight against pediatric cancers.
Children’s Mercy Hospital and The University of Kansas Cancer Center announced the new endowed chairs Monday evening at the Stowers Institute for Medical Research.
“There are very few causes in our community that touch people’s hearts like children and cancer,” said Dr. Roy Jensen, director of the cancer center.
Each position has an individual focus: immunotherapy, health outcomes, genomics and hematologic malignancies.
Establishment of the endowed chairs came through donations from area foundations and individuals, including the Hall Family Foundation. The Hall money is part of a previously announced $8 million gift the foundation made to cancer center last year.
The funding will go toward luring top-notch pediatric research scientists to the two institutions, outfitting lab space and offering other facilities and staff arrangements.
Recruitment is expected to begin immediately, with no definite timetable on filling the positions.
The endowed chairs are a “bold step in creating a better future for children with cancer and ultimately a future where cancer doesn’t exist,” said Dr. Michael Artman, chairman of Children’s Mercy pediatrics department.
Monday’s announcement came about two weeks before a review team from the National Cancer Institute is scheduled to visit the cancer center, which is seeking NCI certification as a “comprehensive” cancer center. The center submitted its application in September and NCI is expected to make a decision this summer.
If the application is approved, KU would become the nation’s 48th comprehensive cancer center.
“You can’t be a comprehensive cancer center if you are ignoring pediatric patients,” Jensen said.
William F. Bradley Jr., and his wife, Robbie Harding, helped underwrite the chair in genomic research. The Overland Park, Kansas, couple’s daughter, Lauren, has undergone treatment at Children's Mercy for leukemia.
“Our experience with Lauren,” Bradley said, “has taught us that no child deserves the condition that brings them to Children’s Mercy.”
Mike Sherry is online news editor at KCPT’s Flatland. You can reach him by phone at 816-398-4205, by email at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @MikeSherryKCPT