Cancer center gets coveted NCI designation

Published: Thursday, May 3, 2018 By: Sarah Terry-Cobo Source: The Journal Record
live in rural areas, 2.5 times higher than the national average. And two in five of his center’s patients live at least 50 miles away.

That’s why he and his staff are working with primary care physicians in rural areas and with Native American tribes to help connect people with resources and reduce the disease burden.

“We rank 50 out of 50 in the amount of vegetables and fruits that are consumed, so we have to look in the mirror,” Mannel said. “We won’t make a difference in the state by telling people what to do; we need to talk to people throughout Oklahoma and partner with them for a plan.”

That’s why the Stephenson Cancer Center partnered with the Osage Nation to bring its mobile mammography bus to the county and screen 150 women for breast cancer. Staff members also took the bus to Texas County for a similar screening program. There’s a high proportion of ethnic minorities, many of whom were drawn to work in the meatpacking industry in Guymon, and they face disproportionate cancer risks compared to non-Hispanic whites.

Mannel’s staff has partnered with the Cherokee Nation among others to reach potential patients. The American Cancer Society is working on a proposal to provide free lodging for adult cancer patients who live more than 50 miles from the Stephenson Center.

U.S. Rep. Tom Cole is a member of the Chickasaw Nation and chairman of the committee that provides funding to the National Institutes of Health, the parent agency for the National Cancer Institute. He said it’s important that Oklahoma can help provide a representative sample of clinical trials for people from rural areas and for Native Americans.

Cole advocated for more funding for the NIH, which hadn’t received any increases in a dozen years. In the last three, his committee helped increase the agency’s funding by 23 percent, from $30 billion to $37 billion annually.

A 17-year journey

Boren commended the Oklahoma Legislature for passing House Bill 1072 back in 2001. The law asked the OU Regents to establish a cancer treatment and research center. The goal then was to achieve National Cancer Institute designation.

There are 70 NCI-designated cancer treatment centers in 36 states and in Washington, D.C.

Mannel said the Stephenson Cancer Center building, research and collaboration is the largest public-private partnership in Oklahoma history. He’s recruited 100 physicians and scientists and about 1,000 people work for the center in some capacity. He’s drawn in nearly $400 million in research, constructing the building and hiring staff members in the last 12 years.

The state initially provided money to OU Health Sciences Center to get the program started. Boren provided a match for all state funding until he raised so much money, the state couldn’t keep up.

Now the Stephenson Center has

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