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Moffitt Cancer Center plans $800 million expansion

An entrance to Tampa's Moffitt Cancer Center, where officials have announced plans for an $800 million expansion, primarily to accomodate expected demand for cancer immunotherapy. [Times files]

An entrance to Tampa's Moffitt Cancer Center, where officials have announced plans for an $800 million expansion, primarily to accomodate expected demand for cancer immunotherapy. [Times files]

TAMPA — The H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center is moving forward with an ambitious $800-million expansion that will include a new hospital wing, two research buildings, a clinical support building and additional outpatient facilities, CEO Dr. Alan List told the Tampa Bay Times Thursday.

The growth is being driven largely by key scientific breakthroughs made on the Tampa campus, List said. In particular, researchers have had success with experimental "immunotherapy" treatments, which harness the body's own immune system to fight the cancer.

If the treatments win FDA approval in 2017, as is expected, Moffitt would be among the first cancer centers in the country to offer them, said center director Dr. Thomas Sellers.

"We need to prepare," he said.

The entire expansion is expected to take 10 years. Moffitt leaders plan to raise $500 million and hope to finance the rest with a bond bankrolled by state cigarette taxes.

The first step, scheduled to begin in 2017, will be the construction of the clinical support building to house faculty offices and laboratories, List said. The expected cost is between $38 million and $40 million.

The new space will allow the 206-bed cancer center to add beds — something that will be necessary if Moffitt moves forward with the immunotherapy treatments, List said.

There are several types of immunotherapy. One type, which is in clinical trials at Moffitt, involves a clinician removing some of the patient's immune cells, training those cells to recognize and fight the cancer, and then returning them to the body. The treatment cannot be done in an outpatient setting; patients run the risk of having a toxic response and must spend several weeks in the hospital.

Sellers called the data from the clinical trials "remarkable."

"This new cutting-edge therapy is working for patients for whom all other existing therapies have not worked," he said.

To accommodate what will likely be "huge demand," List hopes to add at least 10 hospital beds in the next few years. He hopes to add another 10 over the next decade.

The new wing would come near the tail end of the expansion plan. "We do know we are going to need additional hospital expansion on the campus," List said.

That isn't the cancer center's only need.

Moffitt also is running out of outpatient space, List said. It opened a new outpatient center at 10920 N McKinley Drive just last year. But already the building is almost entirely filled, List said.

Most of the 56,000 patients who received treatment last year were seen in outpatient facilities.

The expansion plans seek to further Moffitt's dual mission of treating patients and advancing research. It comes amid a push to hire 750 new faculty members for the clinical and research operations.

Both have earned national recognition.

Earlier this year, U.S. News and World Report named Moffitt the sixth-best cancer hospital in the nation.

Additionally, Moffitt recently had its "Comprehensive Cancer Center" designation renewed by the National Cancer Institute. Only 47 cancer centers in the United States hold the title, which honors institutions for their scientific leadership.

"We can do things that other cancer centers can't do," Sellers said. "We feel it is a responsibility at Moffitt to accelerate this pace of discovery."

Contact Kathleen McGrory at kmcgrory@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8330. Follow @kmcgrory.

What is immunotherapy?

The immune system often has trouble recognizing cancer cells. That's because some give off substances that keep the immune system in check. Others are too similar to normal cells to be detected.

Immunotherapy is a treatment that empowers a person's immune system to recognize and fight diseases such as cancer. Most treatments either stimulate the patient's own immune system to work harder or smarter, or give the patient's immune system components to help combat the cancer cells.

Immunotherapy drugs are now used to treat many different types of cancer. Newer types of immunotherapy are being studied in clinical trials at cancer centers around the world.

Source: American Cancer Society

Moffitt Cancer Center plans $800 million expansion 11/17/16 [Last modified: Thursday, November 17, 2016 6:54pm]
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