OU Health Stephenson Cancer Center Celebrates Milestone Anniversary

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OU Health Stephenson Cancer Center Celebrates Milestone Anniversary

OU Health Stephenson Cancer Center, located on the OU Health Sciences Center campus in Oklahoma City, recently marked more than a decade of delivering the most advanced, research-driven, comprehensive care for patients facing the challenges of a cancer diagnosis. Dedicated on June 30, 2011, Stephenson Cancer Center opened to patient care three weeks later.

A $12-million gift made in 2010 by Tulsa residents Charles and Peggy Stephenson, longtime supporters of the University of Oklahoma, capped a $50-million private fundraising campaign. Theirs was the largest single donation to the Health Sciences Center at the time. In 2019, the Stephenson Family Foundation presented a transformative $20 million gift to expand the center’s research mission. Extending the impact of the Stephenson’s generosity, the cancer center committed to raise an additional $20 million, dedicated to the discovery of new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer. The philanthropic support of the Stephenson family served to sustain momentum that helped secure the cancer center’s designation as a National Institutes of Health (NCI) Cancer Center in 2018.

NCI designation became a specific goal for Stephenson Cancer Center in 2001, when the Oklahoma State Legislature approved House Bill 1072. Passed with bipartisan support, the bill called upon the university to create a comprehensive cancer center to provide leadership in cancer treatment, research and outreach. Further, the overarching goal was to achieve national recognition as an NCI-designated cancer center. Over the past decade, more than $400 million has been committed to the support and ongoing development of the cancer center, making it the largest public-private biosciences initiative in Oklahoma history.

Stephenson Cancer Center is the only NCI-designated center in Oklahoma. NCI designation belongs to only an elite group of cancer centers representing the top 2% of centers in the United States. Then and now, the cancer center demonstrates an unprecedented commitment to fighting cancer through improved treatment, clinical research, support programs and education.

Robert Mannel, M.D., Stephenson Cancer Center director, emphasized what it means to have such a resource in the state. “Cancer is the greatest challenge of modern-day medicine, possessing an intimidating force to irrevocably alter the lives of patients and their families. Cancer touches all of us, with one of two Oklahoma men and one in three Oklahoma women getting a cancer diagnosis during their lifetime. Stephenson Cancer Center’s vision is to eliminate cancer in Oklahoma and beyond. Its mission is to provide patient-centered, research-driven multidisciplinary cancer care. Such care is available in Oklahoma at Stephenson Cancer Center.”

In addition to generous private philanthropy, several community partners played key roles in the growth of Stephenson Cancer Center. These include the State of Oklahoma, through tobacco tax revenues, the University Hospitals Authority and Trust, Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust (TSET), Chickasaw and Choctaw Nations, OU Health, Presbyterian Health Foundation and the University of Oklahoma

The presence of this unparalleled resource for the utmost in compassionate patient care makes it possible to offer a broad range of latest-generation therapies and research-driven clinical trials. Further, it allows patients to access world-class care close to home, eliminating the necessity of travel beyond state borders. This invaluable benefit preserves patients’ vital networks of physical, mental and emotional support found in family, friends and spiritual communities.

Stephenson Cancer Center is a national leader in early-and late-phase clinical trials, and is one of 32 Lead Academic Participating Sites in NCI’s National Clinical Trials Network. Stephenson Cancer Center also houses two research centers – TSET Health Promotion Research Center and the Center for Cancer Prevention and Drug Development. Both of these centers promote inter-programmatic and transdisciplinary collaboration.

“We’re keenly focused on research-driven patient care that provides access to tomorrow’s therapies today. It is research that drives us toward a future reality in which the burden of cancer is reduced or eliminated,” said Mannel. “Here, we have harnessed the resources that will one day help to defeat this adversary, which has taken such a toll on families across the globe. Stephenson Cancer Center is an inspiring model of what we can accomplish as Oklahomans united for such a compelling cause.”

Mannel explained that the cancer center’s mission-critical components include recruitment of NCI-funded researchers and the education and superior training of oncology health professionals. “These strategies are part of the battle plan to defeat cancer.”