San Antonio (Dec. 2, 2003) – Three-hundred South Texas leaders including former Texas Gov. Dolph Briscoe Jr. received a red carpet welcome Nov. 19 to the sneak preview of a stellar $50 million research institute at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio (UTHSC) where top scientists will study the biology of children’s cancer and extend the findings to adult cancer.
The knowledge and treatments that will emerge from the Children’s Cancer Research Institute (CCRI) will improve the lives of children and adults alike, said Francisco G. Cigarroa, M.D., UTHSC president. The center is built on a firm foundation – a $200 million endowment fund that is the nation’s single largest endowment for cancer. Another cornerstone for success is the CCRI’s founding director, Sharon B. Murphy, M.D., who came to the UTHSC in 2002 from Northwestern University School of Medicine and is recruiting the CCRI’s faculty.
“The CCRI is poised to become one of the greatest cancer institutes in the nation,” Dr. Cigarroa said. “The $200 million endowment enabled us to build a state-of-the-art environment where scientists can collaborate on major cancer research.”
San Antonio philanthropists Toby and Barbie O’Connor, who hosted the gathering of community leaders in the CCRI’s majestic ground-floor atrium, said they were proud to support the new institute, which will work toward a lofty goal – “a future in which the words ‘children’ and ‘cancer’ will never again appear in the same sentence.” The O’Connors are the founding presidents of the CCRI Ambassadors’ Circle, a group of outstanding community leaders who are key proponents of the new institute. Texans who are interested in the group may call the UTHSC external affairs office at (210) 567-3078.
Dr. Cigarroa introduced Dr. Murphy as a researcher of international stature who united 238 institutions in pediatric cancer research through the Pediatric Oncology Group. He said he and the community leaders are proud she is now a citizen of Texas.
“This is a new jewel in the crown of the Health Science Center,” said Dr. Murphy, who pledged to “work her heart out” to make the CCRI a point of pride for the state, nation and world. Six of the nation’s most prominent scientists in children’s cancer research lead the CCRI External Advisory Board.
The CCRI building is 100,000 square feet and has four stories that include laboratories, offices, a vivarium and auditorium. The formal dedication is set for February 2004.
“As many of you know, my career has been spent giving children a second chance at life,” said Dr. Cigarroa, a noted pediatric and transplant surgeon. “Tonight is about giving physicians the hope that they will see the day when no child loses his or her life to cancer. Tonight is about hope!”
Dr. Cigarroa ended the night with these words: “This evening is about giving you a glimpse of San Antonio’s newest research treasure. This is a magnificent building for a magnificent cause.”