CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WVDN) – Yesterday Gov. Jim Justice delivered a $50 million check to West Virginia University’s academic and healthcare leaders in the pursuit of earning an official National Cancer Institute Designation – a first for West Virginia.
The funding was included in House Bill 2024 as part of the Fiscal Year 2024 budget passed by the West Virginia Legislature and signed by Gov. Justice.
“I am thrilled to deliver this $50 million check to the West Virginia University Cancer Institute in their pursuit of an official cancer center designation by the National Cancer Institute,” Gov. Justice said. “I want to express my deep gratitude to the West Virginia Legislature for allocating these crucial funds, and to WVU Medicine for pursuing this incredible goal, because we all recognize the importance and significance of obtaining this recognition from the NCI, as it is only bestowed upon the nation’s top cancer centers. This funding will serve as a catalyst to jumpstart our progress towards that goal, and I couldn’t be more proud.”
“Our goal is to place the WVU Cancer Institute in the top 2% of cancer centers nationwide, which will improve the health and wellness of the people in our state, particularly in southern West Virginia, by reducing cancer occurrence rates and increasing cancer survival,” WVU President Gordon Gee said.
The funding will be used for comprehensive research programs, faculty and facilities that will directly lead to innovative approaches in cancer prevention, diagnosis and treatment for all West Virginians.
Justice made the announcement at WVU Medicine Princeton Community Hospital flanked by Gee, WVU Health System President and Chief Executive Officer Albert L. Wright, Jr., WVU Health Sciences Chancellor and Executive Dean Dr. Clay Marsh and WVU Cancer Institute Director Dr. Hannah Hazard-Jenkins.
“There is a cancer epidemic in West Virginia,” Marsh said. “As West Virginia’s land grant institution, it’s our duty and honor to make sure our state’s citizens have access to the most advanced clinical trials, treatments and care for cancer, and we are working closely with our WVU Medicine and state partners to bring this level of care to West Virginians. We are grateful to our state legislature and governor for recognizing the need that exists and for supporting a solution.”
The National Cancer Institute leads cancer research across the country and recognizes cancer centers with an official NCI designation, the highest federal rating a cancer center can achieve. This designation is awarded to cancer centers that are leading in innovative research and treatments and is the gold standard for cancer programs.
According to Wright, NCI designation will allow the WVU Cancer Institute to expand beyond the traditional model of diagnosis and treatment to a more integrated and comprehensive approach with a stronger emphasis on cancer prevention, especially in underserved populations.
“Our long-term vision includes building the infrastructure necessary for a new NCI-designated Cancer Institute in Morgantown and for our existing network of Cancer Institute sites across the state to become NCI designated to bring patients increased access to better treatments, public education, pioneering research, and national clinical trials,” Wright said.
Currently, there are 71 NCI-designated cancer centers in 36 U.S. states, and centers with this designation represent the top two percent of cancer centers in the country. The WVU Cancer Institute would be the first NCI-designated cancer center in West Virginia.
“Our long-standing mission is to provide excellent care to patients with cancer, and their families, while strengthening our research, education and service programs to address the cancer health inequalities unique to the state of West Virginia and Appalachia,” Hazard-Jenkins said. “Together, we will work to build science that saves lives.”
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