University of Arizona Cancer Center breaks ground on the Phoenix Biomedical Campus

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(Chloe Brooks/DD)

The long-awaited University of Arizona Cancer Center broke ground Thursday. The Center will be an addition to the Phoenix Biomedical Campus, which hosts programs from all three Arizona universities. (Chloe Brooks/DD)

Officials from the University of Arizona, city of Phoenix and St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center broke ground on the new University of Arizona Cancer Center Thursday.

“This is more than a building,” University of Arizona President Ann Weaver Hart said. “Today is a groundbreaking for a building. But this building is a location, a location for … research and treatment of cancer for the citizens of Arizona.”

David Alberts, director of the cancer center, said that the facility will focus on the prevention and early detection of cancer. He explained that finding a cure would not be necessary if the center could effectively prevent it from occurring in the first place.

Alberts spoke about the time and work it took to make the UACC on the Biomedical Campus a reality, noting the multiple people who told him his dreams for the facility would never come to fruition.

“And the naysayers said, ‘it can’t be done,’ and I said, ‘it can be done,’” Alberts said.

The UACC is currently housed at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center. When the new facility opens, it will cover outpatient procedures, while the older cancer center will handle all inpatient procedures, said Al Bravo, associate director of public affairs for the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix.

Linda Hunt, president and CEO for Dignity Health Arizona, which owns the hospital and two others in the Valley, said both St. Joseph’s and the University of Arizona are known for pioneering care, research, innovation and service.

“Both of us, the U of A and Dignity Health/Saint Joe’s, have an incredible reputation for excellence and we attract medical talent, research talent and some of the best caregivers that I think are in not only this state, but really in this world,” Hunt said.

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton said the day of the groundbreaking represented everything the city wants to be, in terms of the economy, research, medical care and science. The city’s involvement in the Biomedical Campus has helped create the 21st-century economy Phoenix needs, he said.

“This is a great day for our city, our region, our entire state,” Stanton said.

Set to open for patients in 2015, UACC will be 220,000 square feet spread over five stories. The facility will feature state-of-the-art technology and services, Bravo said.

UACC will be located on Seventh and Fillmore streets on the Biomedical Campus. The 1.56 acres of land for the facility are being leased from the city.

The Biomedical Campus is anchored by the University of Arizona College of Medicine – Phoenix, as well as the College of Public Health, College of Pharmacy and College of Nursing, Bravo said. The campus also features a nutrition program from ASU, physical therapy and physician’s assistant programs from Northern Arizona University and the Translational Genomics Research Institute.

“The story of this campus, the success of this campus and what we’re celebrating here today, is all about collaboration,” Stanton said.

Those present at the ceremony were invited to write loved ones’ names on colored ribbons representing different cancer types. The ribbons will later be tied to the chain-link fence bordering the construction site, where they will be left until the weather disturbs them, Bravo said. He hopes that the ribbons will be incorporated into UACC once the building is open.

Contact the reporter at kimberly.koerth@asu.edu