Constructing a Cure for Cancer
by Amanda Gallagher and Will SansomWhen the 76th Texas Legislature awarded the Health Science Center a $200 million endowment to build the state’s most comprehensive children’s cancer research institute, it knew the project was in good hands.
When the Health Science Center handed the project to Sharon B. Murphy, M.D., the institution knew it secured success.
Dr. Murphy is the newly appointed director of the Children’s Cancer Research Institute, a $49.5 million facility with the potential to become one of the foremost research institutes in the world. The $200 million endowment that funds the institute is part of the state’s tobacco settlement and is the largest single cancer endowment in the United States. Dr. Murphy’s experience, vision and leadership ability complete the package.
"We have recruited the top physician/scientist in the field to lead the Children’s Cancer Research Institute," said Francisco G. Cigarroa, M.D., president of the Health Science Center. "Dr. Murphy not only is an internationally recognized researcher in the field of pediatric oncology, but she has a sterling reputation as a program builder and a compassionate physician. She was the top choice of everyone involved in this extensive national search."
Dr. Murphy came to the Health Science Center from Illinois, where she was chief of the division of hematology/oncology at Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago and professor of pediatrics at Northwestern. From 1993 to 2001, she served as chair of the Pediatric Oncology Group (POG), a National Cancer Institute-sponsored clinical trials cooperative group serving roughly half of all the children with cancer in North America. She was instrumental in forming the successor to POG, the Children’s Oncology Group, which unites 238 institutions participating in pediatric oncology research. Her decision to build the Children’s Cancer Research Institute from the ground up seemed a natural progression.
"I wanted the opportunity to start something from scratch and the Health Science Center had the space and the resources to do it. That is almost unheard of today," Dr. Murphy said. "Dr. Cigarroa’s energy and vision for the Health Science Center also was a big attraction for me."
The Children’s Cancer Research Institute building, located at 8403 Floyd Curl Drive, is about 50 percent complete. Contractors said it will be ready for move-in by August 2003.
In the meantime, Dr. Murphy faces her first major challenge: filling the center with the right equipment and researchers.
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