September 28, 2005

Contact: Angela Heisel, 272-3651

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

The University of New Mexico Cancer Research & Treatment Center has been named a National Cancer Institute-designated cancer research and treatment center.

This means the UNM CRTC has joined the ranks of the 40 most pre-eminent cancer research and treatment centers in the United States, including internationally known centers such as The University of Texas-MD Anderson Cancer Center, The Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, UCLA, and UCSF; and our regional partners The Arizona Cancer Center and the University of Colorado Cancer Center.

"The physicians and staff of the UNM CRTC believe that all of the citizens of New Mexico deserve outstanding cancer care here in their home state, surrounded by their friends and family members who support and love them," says Cheryl L. Willman, MD, director and CEO of the UNM CRTC. "The UNM CRTC provides outstanding cancer care to the most prominent and the most needy individuals in our communities, side by side."

The National Cancer Institute accredits and designates only those centers that conduct outstanding cancer research focused on translating discoveries into better cancer treatments and tools for cancer diagnosis and prevention; that provide outstanding, state of the art cancer care to their patients; and that reach out to their regional communities to form partnerships for cancer education and prevention.

The State of New Mexico played a key role in bringing the NCI-designation to the UNM CRTC. The Legislature passed, and Governor Bill Richardson signed, legislation that raised the cigarette tax in New Mexico to generate additional funds for the CRTC. In addition, the Legislature earmarked $9 million in non-recurring funds for the CRTC which enabled UNM to recruit 41 new cancer physicians and researchers, significantly strengthening the cancer center's research and patient care capabilities.

In 2005, UNM CRTC provided care to over 35 percent of the adults and 100 percent of the children in New Mexico affected by cancer in over 70,000 ambulatory clinic visits. The UNM CRTC team of 52 cancer physicians and 90 cancer research scientists is the largest team of cancer specialists in New Mexico .

Along with bringing improved patient care to New Mexico , the five-year NCI designation planning process has already had a dramatic impact on economic development in New Mexico . "Since 2000, the UNM CRTC and its research partners the Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute and Sandia National Laboratories have recruited 25 outstanding new cancer physicians and 16 nationally-recognized scientists to New Mexico from other prominent centers; we have opened over 180 cancer clinical trials testing new treatments, and we have increased our annual cancer research funding to nearly $40 million," said Dr. Willman.

The NCI designation for UNM is accompanied by a federal grant from the National Institutes of Health - The National Cancer Institute of over $8 million dollars to support the continued growth of cancer programs in New Mexico .

The UNM CRTC, the state of New Mexico 's official cancer center, works to reduce the incidence of cancer in New Mexico , decrease cancer mortality and contribute to the world's understanding of cancer. With a staff of over 300 including more than 150 physicians and research scientists, the UNM CRTC maintains a vigorous clinical research program, participates in clinical trials and compiles and tracks data on all cancer cases affecting the state's diverse population.