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The University of Kansas' Cancer Center first tried to earn the distinction of National Cancer Institute in the 1970s.
This year, it finally broke through.
"I think in terms of national recognition, it opens up an entirely new group of folks for us to have seriously consider us in terms of coming here and being part of the cancer center," said Roy Jensen, director.
Jensen said the school had resource issues in its first attempt. Over time, those issues were resolved. This time, the university focused on what made it unique in its application process - its school of medicine and its institute for medical research.
The designation is a "great thing for the university," Jensen said, but he wants the school to continue to strive for more. The school has put an emphasis on cancer prevention, control, biology and drug discovery and experimental therapeutics.
The understanding of the molecular nature of cancer cells has improved, Jensen said. However, he warns there are more than 200 types of cancer, and even that might be a "gross underestimate."
"This is an enormously complex process, but there is also great opportunity to exploit the differences between cancer cells and normal cells to develop new types of therapeutic approaches," Jensen said.
He said the school is working on targeted therapies that work on just cancer cells with minimal changes to normal cells.
Jensen discussed what the distinction means to the school, as well as its research opportunities, on KFDI's "At Issue" program. A copy of the podcast can be found here.