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Cancer Therapy & Research Center again wins NCI approval
September 30, 2014

By Peggy O'Hare, San Antonio Express-News

SAN ANTONIO - Leaders at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio on Monday celebrated the renewal of its Cancer Therapy & Research Center's formal designation as a cancer center by the National Cancer Institute.

The designation, accompanied by a federal support grant totaling $9 million over the next five years, makes the academic cancer site one of four Texas locations backed by the NCI and among 68 nationwide.

The CTRC also raised an unprecedented $13.2 million in philanthropic funds during the past year, exceeding its annual fundraising goal of $10 million, said Dr. William Henrich, university president.

Those contributions include a $1 million gift from the Valero Energy Foundation and an additional $1 million given by the Klesse Foundation, run by Valero Chairman and former CEO Bill Klesse and his wife, Margie. Health science center officials unveiled both gifts Monday, noting the funds will help recruit a nationally recognized scientist to lead the center.

The cancer center's director, Dr. Ian Thompson Jr., called the National Cancer Institute's support a "vote of confidence from the highest levels of cancer research science." The San Antonio cancer center is now in its 40th year of operation, he said.

The San Antonio site lost its more elite designation as a "comprehensive" cancer center in 2002 before it officially became part of the health science center.

At the time it lost that prestigious status, the center was mired in disputes over leadership and who should manage its grant money. But it held steady as a more basic NCI cancer center, meaning it demonstrated scientific leadership, resources and capabilities in a combination of lab, clinical and population science, according to the national body's website.

The university formally absorbed the CTRC in December 2007. The center serves 38 counties in South Texas.

Other NCI-designated cancer centers in Texas are at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. The state's only comprehensive cancer center is UT MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, according to the NCI's website.

"These NCI cancer centers are unique and they offer tremendous value to the communities in which they reside," Henrich said. "These centers are responsible for advancing hypothesis-driven research to get to the root cause of what causes cancer, so it can be prevented in the future."

Klesse lauded the researchers and physicians working at the CTRC.

"If you stop and think about people who get cancer or have cancer, a lot of people can't travel to Houston or some of these other places," Klesse said. "For us to have a first-class cancer facility - treatment, research, plus the students - and have them here, combined with the health science center, I think, is remarkable."

The health science center also revealed Monday that it is establishing a Military Health Institute to strengthen collaborations aimed at improving the health of military personnel, veterans and their families. The new institute will be led by retired Maj. Gen. Byron Hepburn, a physician and former commander of the 59th Medical Wing at Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center in San Antonio.



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