Bill Signing Propels UAMS Cancer Institute’s Quest for NCI Designation

By Susan Van Dusen

After passing unanimously in both the Arkansas Senate and House, Senate Bill 151 arrived at the governor’s desk March 6 to be signed into law. Lead sponsors Sen. Missy Irvin of Mountain View and Rep. Michelle Gray of Melbourne joined fellow members of the Republican Women’s Legislative Caucus and other UAMS supporters for the signing ceremony at the Arkansas Capitol.

The bill, which was one of the priorities in the caucus’ Dream Big for Arkansas Initiative, establishes an account into which funds supporting NCI Designation can be deposited.

“We are tremendously thankful to Governor Hutchinson, Senator Irvin, Representative Gray and the entire Arkansas Legislature for their support of this bill. The establishment of this account is a vital step for both UAMS and the state of Arkansas, as we now have the required mechanism to move forward in a concerted effort to become the state’s first NCI Designated Cancer Center,” said UAMS Chancellor Cam Patterson, M.D., MBA.

NCI Designation is awarded through a highly competitive assessment process during which cancer centers must demonstrate outstanding depth and breadth of high-quality cancer research, including basic laboratory, patient/clinical and population-based research.

There are 70 NCI-designated cancer centers in 36 states across the country, with the closest to Arkansas being in Memphis (pediatrics only), Dallas and Oklahoma City.

“The National Cancer Institute strongly supports our efforts to achieve designation and is fully aware of the unique cancer-related needs within Arkansas. Receiving NCI Designation will better allow us to address those needs through expanded research funding opportunities and clinical trials,” said UAMS Cancer Institute Interim Director Laura Hutchins, M.D.

In addition, it is projected that NCI Designation would create more than 1,500 new jobs over five years and have an economic impact of $70 million to the state annually.

“It was a huge honor to sponsor Bill 151 in support of UAMS. Knowing that this effort will allow our constituents to receive the latest cancer care advances and clinical trials right here in Arkansas is a tremendous opportunity we are proud to support,” said Gray.