UNM Cancer Center South Opens

January 12, 2007

Contacts: James Korenchen, JKPR, (505) 797-6671, james@jameskorenchen.com

Linda Karr, UNM Cancer Center, (505) 272-1048, lhkarr@salud.unm.edu

Sam Benevento, Memorial Medical Center, (505) 532-7402,



Las Cruces , NM The University of New Mexico Cancer Center, the State of New Mexico's Official Cancer based on the UNM campus in Albuquerque, announces the opening of The UNM Cancer Center-South in Las Cruces.

At the official opening Monday, January 8, a check for $30,000 was presented to UNM Cancer Center from the Fred Morris Memorial Fund. The money was raised from the raffle of a 2006 Toyota Tundra, Darrell Waltrip Limited Edition Truck at the 4th Annual Fred Morris Memorial Race, which was held last September. The truck was donated by Las Cruces Toyota /Scion to help raise money for cancer research and treatment.

As one of the Nation's 60 pre-eminent National Cancer Institute (NCI)-Designated Cancer Centers and as the only center in New Mexico ranked as one of "America's Best Cancer Hospitals" by U.S. News & World Report, The UNM Cancer Center is committed to providing access to the best cancer diagnosis and treatment for all New Mexicans.

Working in partnership with Memorial Medical Center in Las Cruces and community physicians in the Las Cruces area, the new UNM Cancer Center-South will provide state of the art cancer diagnosis and treatment for residents of southern New Mexico and southwestern Texas.

Prior to the opening of the new center, nearly 600 patients traveled each year from southern New Mexico to the UNM Cancer Center's primary hub in Albuquerque to receive cancer treatment. "Now New Mexicans living in the southern part of the state can receive the best cancer care much closer to home where they have the loving support of their families and friends," said Dr. Cheryl Willman, Director and Chief Executive Officer of the UNM Cancer Center. "We are honored to be of service to the people of New Mexico and we want to thank Memorial Medical Center, the entire Las Cruces community, the Cowboys for Cancer Research, and the State Legislators from southern New Mexico, all of whom have supported and encouraged our southward expansion."

The UNM Cancer Center in Albuquerque (cancer.unm.edu) is the state's largest team of cancer specialists, with more than 60 cancer physicians, 110 research scientists, and 400 nurses and staff recruited from outstanding cancer hospitals and medical schools nationwide.

In 2005, the UNM Center provided treatment for over 35 percent of the adults and virtually all of the children in New Mexico affected by cancer. The new UNM Cancer Center-South is a partnership between the UNM Cancer Center, Memorial Medical Center's Ikard Cancer Treatment Center, and Radiation Oncology Associates (www.roanm.com) directed by Dr. Kutub Khan.

Working closely with community-based surgeons and other physicians in the Las Cruces area, the new center will provide fully integrated multidisciplinary cancer care, combining cancer diagnosis, medical oncology, radiation oncology, and patient supportive care services such as nutrition, counseling, and pastoral care.

Katie Rasila, M.D., a new medical oncologist trained by the UNM Center, has already moved to Las Cruces with her family and has begun seeing patients in the new facility. As the practice grows, more medical and radiation oncologists who will also make their homes in the Las Cruces area will be recruited to the Center.

Dr. Rasila will also be supported by additional cancer specialists from the UNM Cancer Center in Albuquerque, who will travel periodically to Las Cruces to run specialty clinics in breast, GYN, lung and other cancers. An active telemedicine link between the Albuquerque and Las Cruces centers will allow real time consultation between physicians in both locations, allowing patients access to tremendous expertise. Patient referrals are being accepted by calling 505/521-1554.

In addition the cancer treatment, the new UNM Cancer Center-South will be a southern New Mexico base for many ongoing cancer education, screening, and research programs. Supported by over $50 million annually in federal and private grants and contracts, the UNM Cancer Center has very active cancer research programs focused on the development of new cancer treatments and clinical trials, many of which will be brought to the new facility in Las Cruces.

Seeded by funds from Cowboys for Cancer Research in the Las Cruces area, UNM Cancer Center scientists also have active, jointly funded collaborations with scientists at New Mexico State University focused on the discovery of new compounds to diagnose and treat breast cancer.

"Memorial Medical Center will be working side-by-side with UNM Cancer Center South to provide the highest level of cancer care to southern New Mexico," said Paul Herzog, Chief Executive Officer for Memorial Medical Center. "We are very excited about this partnership, and both organizations will work together to bring us closer to a cure."

University of New Mexico Cancer Center Facts & Figures

- Founded in 1971.

- The State of New Mexico's Official Cancer Center.

- Designated as one of the nation's 60 pre-eminent National Cancer Institute-Designated Cancer Centers.

- Named one of America's Best Cancer Hospitals by U.S.News & World Report in July 2006.

- Treats more than 5,000 patients annually, representing more than 35% of the adults and virtually all of the children diagnosed with cancer in New Mexico.

- Receives more than $50 million a year to fund a wide variety of cancer research programs.

- Largest staff of cancer specialsts in New Mexico, with more than 60 cancer physicians and 110 cancer researchers recruited from some of the world's most prestigious institutions.

- Largest and most comprehensive array of multidisciplinary cancer treatment programs in New Mexico.

- Facilities in Las Cruces, Albuquerque and Santa Fe with collaborative clinical andeducational programs statewide.

- Close research partnerships with New Mexico State University, the Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute, and Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratories.

Contact: Luke Frank, 272-3322

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