Just a few years ago, Jonathan Killgore's late wife was flying to Maryland at least once a month for experimental cancer treatments that weren't available in Oklahoma or nearby states.
On Thursday, Killgore attended a dedication ceremony for the new Peggy and Charles Stephenson Oklahoma Cancer Center. The $128 million building is designed to bring
A waiting room area on the second floor is named for Killgore's late-wife, Anna Cesario Killgore, who died in 2009 after a four-year battle with ovarian cancer.
Killgore's first thought Thursday was how proud she would have been.
“It's great that we finally have something like this in Oklahoma,” said Killgore, 31, of Norman.
Several hundred Oklahoma residents gathered at a “healing garden” outside the new building for the dedication ceremony Thursday morning. Guests also lined the rock wall bordering the garden and looked down from the first few stories of the building, located on the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center campus in Oklahoma City.
Dream is realized
Ten years ago, legislators tasked OU with creating a statewide cancer center. On Thursday, OU President David Boren praised Oklahoma residents for making the longtime dream a reality.
“This is a building that love and care and concern built,” Boren said, standing in the shadow of the
Physician and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Siddhartha Mukherjee said doctors and researchers today understand cancer in a much different way than they did 10 years ago. They are starting to recognize fundamental commonalities between different types of cancer. In doing so, they've been able to transform cancer from an automatic death sentence to something that can have long-term survival rates.
Mukherjee teaches medicine at Columbia University and works as a physician at the university's medical center. His book, “The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer,” won the Pulitzer Prize this year.
High schools helped
The cancer center's vision extends beyond the new building to include a network of partnerships, treatment and research at other facilities. A branch of the center is located on the OU campus in Tulsa.
The state gave about $90 million for the project and the University Hospitals Authority and Trust provided $25 million. The university launched a fundraising campaign that has generated more than $50 million.
Those gifts include $12 million from the Stephensons, who are natives of Antlers. When they made their gift in 2010, it was the largest one-time donation to the OU Health Sciences Center.
Donors also included students from several local high schools. Their schools raised more than $10,000 each, which allowed them to name waiting rooms after their communities, Boren said.
The building will open to the first patients July 18, although some staff won't move into the building until later. Officials plan to add more staff during the next few years as patient loads build. They also plan to apply for designation as a National Cancer Institute comprehensive cancer center, which signifies the highest level of cancer research and care.
Patients can participate in Phase 1 clinical trials, which test new drugs. They will have access to a variety of support staff, including financial and spiritual counselors.
Next spring, the center will start offering proton therapy, an advanced form of radiation treatment.
The public is invited to visit the center between 9 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Friday for a tour.