A Story of Hope.
In the year 2000, University of South Alabama president V. Gordon Moulton commissioned a needs and economic analysis for establishment of an academic cancer center at USA. The resulting study demonstrated both the opportunity and potential financial viability for such a center. President Moulton’s presentation of the concept to the USA Board of Trustees in December, 2000, was followed by a unanimous vote to create the USA Cancer Research Institute (USA-CRI).
With the vision and commitment of both the University president and leadership-of the USA Board of Trustees, support for the Institute has been forthcoming from multiple key stakeholders at the federal, state and local level. To date, this has included seed money of $3,870,000 from tobacco suit settlement funds, $46 million in federal appropriations, $12 million in State of Alabama economic development funds, $6 million in City of Mobile and County funds, $12 million in USA Foundation support, $22 million in philanthropic funds contributed by the Mitchell Family, and numerous other philanthropic donations.
After a national search in 2001, the University recruited its first director, Michael Boyd, M.D., Ph.D., who joined USA in April, 2002. Following that, a major milestone occurred with the Mitchell family pledging $22 million to the cancer institute. The USA Board subsequently voted to name the Institute the “USA Mitchell Cancer Institute” in recognition of the Mitchell family’s contributions. In the fall of 2008, all clinical and research components of the USA-MCI were consolidated into a state-of-the-art 125,000 square foot building located at 1660 Springhill Avenue.
From 2008 to 2014, the focus of MCI has been recruitment of clinical faculty, development of clinical services and research programs, recruitment of research faculty, establishment of core research support facilities, and promotion of use-inspired research and technology development. Currently, the full-time MCI clinical faculty comprises six medical oncologists, three gynecologic oncologists, two radiation oncologists and three medical physicists. In addition there are 32 participating MCI “Member Physicians” from USA and throughout the community and region who are provided access to clinical research trials, the collective expertise of our interdisciplinary team of clinicians and researchers, and to MCI core support research facilities. MCI is thus poised to provide clinical services and clinical trials to a diverse and underserved population of South Alabama and the Gulf Coast Corridor.
Our basic and translational research activities have grown steadily and are currently pursued by 12 MCI Faculty Investigators and their associated research teams. Our researchers have been increasingly successful in winning extramural research grant funding, despite the crippling constraints on federal and other biomedical research funding that have evolved over the past 10 years.
Our story continues to unfold. In March of 2013 we announced plans to enter into a Consortium Partnership with the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Comprehensive Cancer Center. The USA Board of Trustees approved the partnership in a declaration of intent, endorsed by both universities. Consortium Partnership activities have begun as the two institutions forge productive collaborations to advance and accelerate clinical, translational and basic cancer research. In fall 2014, Dr. Michael A. Finan was named Interim Director. In addition, Dr Robert Sobol, a nationally renowned researcher in DNA repair, joined MCI in fall 2014, and recruitment is underway for a Chief, Medical Oncology.
Since our inception in the year 2000, our strategic goal remains constant: to achieve competitiveness for future designation as an NCI Comprehensive Cancer Center and to achieve self-sustaining, long-term financial viability. We are currently working towards designation as an NCI Cancer Consortium Center which will help us on the journey to fulfill our goals. Our researchers and clinicians focus daily on the battle against cancer serving a potential catchment population of over 4.1 million people, with a singular focus of advancing cancer diagnosis, treatment and prevention in our region and beyond.