The University of Hawaii Cancer Center, whose mission will be to develop high-caliber cancer treatment and research, finally broke ground yesterday in Kakaako.
The long-awaited six-story, 150,000-square-foot building will be located near the John A. Burns School of Medicine and occupied by more than 300 research faculty and staff. Previously called the Cancer Research Center of Hawaii, it was renamed the University of Hawaii Cancer Center yesterday. Construction of the $120 million facility is slated to be completed by the end of 2012.
Dr. Michele Carbone, director of the cancer center, said the facility will be a consortium with Hawaii Pacific Health, Kuakini Medical Center and the Queen’s Medical Center. "The cancer center will pull the best resources together to give the best options to patients," he said. In the coming months, Carbone said, he will continue to focus on recruitment and fundraising efforts.
Among the 200 people attending the groundbreaking were U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye, U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka, UH President M.R.C. Greenwood and members of the Legislature. Inouye, the keynote speaker, said, "We will have a first-class center here, one that we can be proud of, the nation that can be proud of."
He shared with attendees the insurmountable emotional and physical pain he and his first wife, Margaret "Maggie" Inouye, endured when she was diagnosed with colon cancer six years ago. "That was something that I hope none of you would have to go through," he said. As her cancer worsened, Maggie Inouye was eventually admitted to the hospital. Sen. Inouye spent more than a month in a cot next to his wife’s hospital bed. In her last days, Inouye recalled his wife telling him she was going to be dead in 10 days after she arranged with her doctor of her decision to limit her treatment to painkillers and water. "Can you imagine your wife telling you, ‘In 10 days I’ll be dead’?" said Inouye.
Maggie Inouye died in March 2006. She was 81.
Inouye also shared how his grandmother suffered from urethral cancer, and his own personal scare after doctors diagnosed him with lung cancer in 1967. After undergoing surgery in which doctors removed a rib and left him with 16 inches of stitches, it was discovered he did not have cancer. The scar, Inouye said, is a daily reminder of cancer’s dangers.
More than 6,000 people annually in Hawaii are diagnosed with cancer, according to Jackie Young, chief staff officer of the American Cancer Society Hawaii and a breast cancer survivor. Two thousand people die of cancer every year in Hawaii, she said.
The center will give patients access to the best care to increase their chance of survival, Young said.
The cancer center was delayed for several years. UH had selected Townsend Hawaii LLC to oversee the plan for the center and negotiate a deal on the project’s design, financing and construction. But talks ended in June 2009. UH officials later hired the Kobayashi Group LLC.
Yesterday the Board of Regents unanimously approved a $2.5 million settlement involving a breach-of-contract lawsuit Townsend filed against UH. Details of the settlement were not available as it had yet to be finalized by Circuit Court Judge Karl Sakamoto, according to Tina Shelton, spokeswoman for the John S. Burns School of Medicine. The settlement is expected to be finalized within 60 days.