CHARLESTON, S.C. - The rumble of a crane and the pounding of hammers is encouraging news for the health of South Carolinians as work moves forward on a $50 million addition to the Hollings Cancer Center at the Medical University of South Carolina.
It's part of an effort to win designation as a cancer center by the National Cancer Institute, university officials said Tuesday.
Such a designation would mean the 11-year-old Hollings Cancer Center would be recognized as providing some of the best care in the country in a state where cancer is the second-leading cause of death and claims more than 7,700 lives a year.
"This cancer center will potentially have a great impact on this state," said Dr. Andrew Kraft, who arrived this summer from the University of Colorado Cancer Center to become director of the Hollings Center.
"We're looking to bring novel drug developments and outstanding clinical care to the state," he said, noting that the university hopes the center can win the designation within three years.
A National Cancer Institute designation would mean millions of dollars in research grants and would give patients access to treatments they now must seek out of state.
The 116,000-square-foot addition will expand the center to 202,000 square feet and provide lab space to attract researchers who, in turn, will help the center win the designation.
The center's seven stories will have space for basic research, clinical care and cancer screening.
"The Hollings Cancer Center is very important to the state, and it has been making steady progress over the years," said Dr. Jerry Reves, the university's vice president of medical affairs and dean of its College of Medicine.
"Our goal here is to be a comprehensive cancer center," he said above the sound of hammers in an adjacent room. "We're talking about competing with the very best cancer programs in the country."
Well-established centers receive as much as $5 million a year in research grants, Dr. Kraft said.
The cancer center designation would mean new drugs and new therapies available for the people of South Carolina, Dr. Kraft said.
"The drug industry is going to take their trials to those places that are designated as cancer centers versus those that are not," he said.
"Our goal is people should not have to go out of state for anything," Dr. Kraft said. "Cancer is clearly a disease in which we are still waiting for major, major breakthroughs. Those breakthroughs can occur anyplace, and there is no reason why they should not be occurring here."
There are 61 facilities in the nation recognized for their research by the National Cancer Institute, according to its Web site.