"Serving the Commonwealth"
President's column from UofL magazine, Spring 2004.
"Serving the Commonwealth," UofL magazine, Spring 2004
The cover story in this issue of UofL talks about the many ways in which we at the University of Louisville are at work in Appalachia, helping to enhance the quality of life for the people there and aiding the region as it realizes its full potential. The initiatives discussed in the article are just a few examples of the many ways the faculty, staff and students at U of L are involved in outreach programs statewide.
Our home base might be in Louisville, but as good citizens of the state we should be, and are, concerned with helping all of Kentucky become a better place to live.
Many of our initiatives are aimed at improving health care. Cancer is just one of the many such areas in which we are involved, but as a major killer of Kentuckians it is a prime concern. The sad fact is, Kentucky ranks among the top five states in the country for the number of deaths resulting from nearly every cancer type. And that’s a statistic we’re working hard to change.
One of the most important efforts we’re engaged in is attaining National Cancer Institute designation as a Comprehensive Cancer Center for our James Graham Brown Cancer Center.
Why should anyone outside the university care?
NCI Comprehensive Cancer Centers operate as the vanguard of our nation’s war on cancer. They combine research, clinical care, education and outreach to generate new knowledge, develop new approaches and then make all of this available to the public. They also enjoy ongoing federal research funding (which boosts the local and state economy, too) and attract the best and brightest cancer scientists.
And as an NCI Comprehensive Cancer Center the Brown Cancer Center will be able to offer some of the newest therapies to our patients, treatments that could mean the difference between life and death. It doesn’t get any more important than that.
Supporting Cancer Research and Care
This year we’ll be launching a $41.5 million capital campaign to raise funds to expand the center’s research and clinical programs to support our quest for the NCI designation. Currently there are no other Comprehensive Cancer Centers in Kentucky, the closest being in Nashville and Columbus, Ohio.
We want to change that. And with the many breakthroughs we’re experiencing here, we are very excited that it could happen soon.
Take, for example, the work being done by U of L cancer researchers Paula Bates, John Trent and Don Miller (who also directs the Brown Cancer Center). The team has discovered what promises to be a powerful new weapon against cancer, a treatment called AGRO100 that is very effective in blocking the growth of cancer cells but, unlike many other forms of chemotherapy, has little effect on normal cells. The result is fewer side effects for the patient.
If the clinical trials that are currently under way on this treatment support what the researchers saw in the lab, it could be a major advance in cancer therapy.
There are numerous other examples I could offer of U of L reseachers who are dedicated to defeating cancer, if only this space allowed. From School of Nursing professor Sally Weinrich, who is working to educate medically underserved men in Louisville’s low-income neighborhoods about the pros and cons of prostate cancer screening, to the students in our School of Dentistry engaged in various studies of oral cancer, we’re engaged in a campus-wide campaign to win the war against this devastating disease.
All of this is in addition to the group of five young researchers who earned an $11.1 million NIH grant--the university’s largest federal research grant ever--featured in the last issue of the magazine.
Of course, we could never have gotten this far without the help of our many friends and supporters. Among them are the state legislature, whose innovative Bucks for Brains program has helped us bring so many excellent minds to U of L, as well as the state’s Office for the New Economy, which recently invested $2 million in programmatic support for the Brown Cancer Center. And we can’t forget Sen. Mitch McConnell and Rep. Anne Northup, both of whom have been so instrumental in securing federal funding for our cancer (and many other) investigations.
We are proud and fortunate to have behind us the strength of friends such as those named here and others who we must save for a later tribute. Their support is helping us continue to move forward in this worthy cause.
One day soon we hope to realize our vision that Louisville is home to an internationally recognized center for cancer research and care, and to know that we have played a part in improving the quality of life for everyone in Kentucky.
James R. Ramsey