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University of New Mexico Cancer Research and Treatment Center

University of New Mexico
Comprehensive Cancer Center

Yolanda Sanchez Ph.D., Director

Albuquerque, New Mexico

Main: (505) 272-4946

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The University of New Mexico (UNM) Comprehensive Cancer Center received funding from the New Mexico state legislature in 1971 and, in 2003, the legislature designated it as the official cancer center of New Mexico. In 2005, it became New Mexico’s only NCI-Designated Cancer Center and in 2015 it received the comprehensive cancer center designation.

To ensure that all New Mexicans have access to world-class cancer care and benefit from advances in cancer research, the UNM Comprehensive Cancer Center aims to provide outstanding cancer diagnosis and treatment, conduct world-class research to discover the causes and the cures for cancer, educate the next generation of cancer health care professionals, and overcome the significant cancer health disparities in the Southwest through community-based outreach programs.

The UNM Comprehensive Cancer Center has established research collaborations with the Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute, Sandia National Laboratories, Los Alamos National Laboratory, and New Mexico State University. Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute is a consortium partner of the cancer center bringing complementary expertise in the causes, mechanisms, and detection of lung cancer and drug development.

The UNM Comprehensive Cancer Center is committed to providing compassionate, cutting-edge, multidisciplinary cancer care to all New Mexicans. At the center, New Mexicans have access to chemotherapy, radiation therapy, cancer surgery, genetic cancer assessment, clinical trials, supportive care, and a pharmacy under one roof. The facility has 17 clinic and service lines, including New Mexico’s only bone marrow and stem cell transplant program.

In addition, the UNM Comprehensive Cancer Center has built a statewide collaborative cancer care network with medical facilities in cities and towns throughout the state. These partners include Memorial Medical Center in Las Cruces, Gila Regional Medical Center in Silver City, and community health systems in the cities of Santa Fe, Albuquerque, and Farmington.

Patients at the UNM Comprehensive Cancer Center have access to new and innovative cancer treatments being evaluated in clinical trials, including phase 1 clinical trials. Because New Mexico is a large, sparsely populated rural state, the UNM Comprehensive Cancer Center established the New Mexico Cancer Care Alliance, a statewide cancer care network of medical, surgical, and gynecologic oncologists in community oncology practices to enhance access to clinical trials throughout New Mexico.

Research at UNM Comprehensive Cancer Center 

The UNM Comprehensive Cancer Center’s team of 130 researchers take on a diverse array of projects that include basic research into cellular mechanisms that are dysregulated in cancer, developing new cancer drugs and treatments, and studying and improving cancer prevention and recovery. The center’s scientists collaborate within and between three research programs: Cancer Control and Population Sciences, Cellular and Molecular Oncology, and Cancer Therapeutics.

Guided by high-quality cancer surveillance data from the New Mexico Tumor Registry, these research programs focus on cancers that have high incidence, mortality, or disparity in the multiethnic and underserved populations of New Mexico. Research directions are also informed by input from the populations served by the UNM Comprehensive Cancer Center. Since its inception, community engagement has been a major pillar of the center. Because of concern expressed by many of the American Indian communities that exposure to environmental factors, in particular waste from hard rock mining, is contributing to increased incidences of cancer in their communities, there has been significant investment in research focused on the effects of exposure to metals, including arsenic and uranium.

The UNM Comprehensive Cancer Center provides the infrastructure and support to translate discoveries and technologies developed by UNM Cancer Center members into clinical and community interventions that improve outcomes for patients with cancer and reduce cancer incidence in New Mexico and beyond. These activities have led to numerous patents and several start-up companies, as well as investigator-initiated clinical trials.

Recent examples of translation from bench to bedside by UNM Cancer Center members include the evaluation of a G protein-coupled estrogen receptor (GPER) agonist in early-stage clinical trials for advanced melanoma and pancreatic cancers and an innovative combination of DNA repair and immune checkpoint inhibitors in a national clinical trial (NCT03602586) for advanced recurrent ovarian cancer.

Select Scientific Initiatives at UNM Comprehensive Cancer Center

In collaboration with a local data analysis company, RS21, the UNM Comprehensive Cancer Center is developing two key cancer informatics components: a flexible, integrated data warehouse infrastructure for disparate clinical and research datasets that will be used to improve the care of individual patients based on their disease characteristics, and a machine learning research platform to enhance efforts in population science and community outreach and engagement in the community served by the center.

As an NCI Community Oncology Research Program (NCORP) Minority/Underserved Community Site, the UNM Comprehensive Cancer Center has historically accrued large numbers of Hispanics and American Indians into clinical trials, reflecting the population diversity in New Mexico. Through community engagement, the UNM Comprehensive Cancer Center is focused on developing culturally appropriate approaches to engage with American Indian cancer patients and survivors. These efforts take place in both clinical and community settings in order to identity the factors contributing to cancer in this understudied population that, in turn, will lead to more effective cancer prevention and treatment.

A goal of the UNM Comprehensive Cancer Center is to increase the participation of individuals from underrepresented populations in cancer research. Through existing cancer education and training pipelines and partnerships with American Indian and Hispanic communities, high schools, and minority-serving educational institutions, the cancer center promotes the recruitment, training, and mentoring of individuals from underrepresented populations in order to increase their participation in cancer research

*This profile provided by University of New Mexico Comprehensive Cancer Center.

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