By | December 19, 2007 12:00 am

ORLANDO, Dec. 19, 2007 — M. D. Anderson Cancer Center Orlando’s Cancer Research Institute (CRI) and the University of Central Florida (UCF) promise to advance cancer research in the region by coming together at UCF’s new Health Sciences campus at Lake Nona.

The agreement with UCF, announced on December 19, allows for 30,000 square feet of space for the CRI on the fifth floor of the new UCF Burnett Biomedical Sciences Building, which is scheduled for completion in 2009. The CRI will pay the university a total of $2.5 million to occupy the building for up to five years while M. D. Anderson – Orlando plans and builds its own research facility which will also be located on UCF grounds.

It is anticipated that UCF and the CRI researchers will develop research collaborations and, when possible, share in the use of core support facilities. Many of the M. D. Anderson – Orlando researchers will also have appointments to the UCF College of Medicine faculty and will mentor UCF students looking to continue their research in Central Florida.

The institute employs 12 researchers, and Cheryl Baker, Ph.D., director of the CRI, estimates the team could triple with the added space and resources. “This is a big step for the community because the more we invest in research, the sooner we can bring new treatments to cancer patients in Central Florida and across the world,” said Dr. Baker.

The UCF College of Medicine and the CRI are two of many premier organizations helping to create a new “medical city” at Lake Nona. The area soon will be bustling with scientists trying to find a cure for cancer and future doctors learning about the latest advances in health care.

“This partnership will be a great asset to our university, and it will help to improve the quality of health care in Central Florida,” said Terry Hickey, UCF’s provost and executive vice president. “This represents another step in transforming Orlando into a premier cancer and medical research city. Our agreement expands resources for cutting-edge cancer research while also providing students the opportunity for hands-on research learning.”

The CRI uses basic and translational research to develop new therapies for pancreatic, kidney, head & neck, lung, breast and brain cancers. Discoveries made at CRI could mean more Phase I clinical trials for patients here in Central Florida. Phase I clinical trials are the first step toward Food & Drug Administration (FDA) approval, which can often take years.

M. D. Anderson Cancer Center Orlando, part of Orlando Regional Healthcare, is affiliated with The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. U.S. News & World Report recently ranked M. D. Anderson Cancer Center as the top cancer treatment center in the U.S. and has ranked it as one of the top two cancer centers for the past 13 years. Orlando Regional, a 1,780-bed community-owned, Florida not-for-profit organization established in 1918, annually serves more than 540,000 Central Florida residents and nearly 3,000 international patients.

The UCF College of Medicine was established in 2006 to increase opportunities for medical education in Florida, address the growing physician shortage nationwide and provide economic benefits to Central Florida and the state through research and technology. The college will offer a doctor of medicine (M.D.) degree program beginning fall 2009, pending preliminary accreditation from the Liaison Committee on Medical Education. The college expects to enroll an initial class of 40 students and eventually produce about 120 medical graduates each year.

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