Markey Cancer Center Designation Will Open Door To New Treatments, Research Dollars

Jul 12, 2013

LEXINGTON, Ky. - Despite persistently high cancer rates, Kentucky has been one of only 16 states been without a National Cancer Institute designated center, but an announcement Friday at the University of Kentucky Healthcare changed that.

Markey Cancer Center director Dr. Mark Evers receives a standing ovation at the announcement of the center's NCI designation.
Markey Cancer Center director Dr. Mark Evers receives a standing ovation at the announcement of the center's NCI designation.
Credit Josh James / WUKY

Sally Leukefeld, a breast cancer survivor who credits UK’s Markey Cancer Center with her survival, was among those telling her story to a large crowd inside Chandler Hospital Friday morning.   

"This place is dedicated to taking care of us, to making things as good as they can be for us, and bringing us out on the other end where I am now," she said.

Leukefeld was part of the official announcement that Markey had achieved the coveted NCI designation, meaning it will be eligible for millions more in additional research funding and patients will have access to new drugs, treatment options, and clinical trials only offered at NCI centers.

The designation has been a goal of the center since Dr. Mark Evers took over as director in 2009.

"To use a sports analogy, this is like our Markey Cancer Center team winning the national championship. It's a very rigorous process we had to go through - a written application as well as we had site visitors come down from the NCI to visit us and to inspect our facilities," Evers said.

Kentucky ranks first nationally in cancer deaths per 100,000 people, according to data released by the Markey Center. The overall cancer rate is 11 percent higher than the national average. Governor Steve Beshear, who was on hand for the announcement, called the NCI designation “a bold statement” that the state will no longer tolerate those grim numbers.