NCI designation promises boost to patients, state.

After a nearly decade-long effort, victory has drawn near in a quest to see the University of Kansas Cancer Center receive an important designation.

In 2002, the university began working toward securing designation as a National Cancer Institute (NCI), and invested more than $350 million in the endeavor.

The prestigious designation would give cancer patients access to clinic trials only available at NCI-designated centers. Plus, the change would bring in millions of research dollars and many high-paying jobs.

An official announcement on the decision is expected this month. When it does come, the news will signal the start of a new era in Kansas health care.

With NCI designation, the KU Cancer Center will be in position to attract some of the brighter minds in cancer research in an effort to discover, develop and deliver innovative treatments.

For now, more than 60 cancer centers nationwide have NCI designation, and none are in Kansas.

Because of that shortcoming, it's not been unusual for cancer patients hoping to extend their lives to pack up and leave Kansas for care in other states.

Boosting the level of cancer care and research in a rural state such as Kansas is a critical endeavor. Studies show farmers have higher rates of a number of deadly cancers, possibly due to their exposure to pesticides and other chemicals, and because of overexposure to the sun.

An estimated 14,000 Kansans will be diagnosed with cancer in 2012, according to the American Cancer Society.

The goal in seeking NCI designation for the KU Cancer Center understandably was to make sure every Kansan could obtain cutting-edge treatments in their home state, and to position the Sunflower State as a destination for others involved in the fight against cancer.

The creation of good jobs and economic benefit would be an added bonus.

Just knowing Kansans battling cancer will have access to more and better treatment options in the state makes the development in NCI designation not only welcome, but also long overdue.

While time-consuming and expensive, the intense push to land NCI designation was more than worth the extra effort.