Las Vegas, Nevada - Among Nevada’s troubling health care stats: The state lacks an officially designated National Cancer Institute (NCI). Elsewhere such institutes have been responsible for many treatment breakthroughs and give their communities access to potentially life-saving research trials. One of the newest hires at UNLV’s School of Medicine aims to change that.

Internationally renowned radiation oncologist and cancer researcher Parvesh Kumar joined the school in February. He serves as a tenured professor, chair of the department of radiation oncology, cancer program director, and senior associate dean of clinical research. In addition, he also was appointed as the principal investigator of the Mountain West Clinical and Translational Research Infrastructure Network program on April 1.

We interviewed Kumar about his vision for the medical school’s cancer program. Here's what he told us.

The Big Goal

We want to create a state-of-the-art cancer center that serves the needs of our community and meets the high requirements that will allow it to have the “seal of approval” to become the only NCI-designated cancer center in Nevada. Getting this designation from the National Cancer Institute means the cancer center is recognized as providing excellent clinical care as well as conducting outstanding, leading-edge research.

NCI-designated cancer centers form the backbone of the nation’s fight against cancer. The discoveries made at these cancer centers often lead to new and approved treatments that reduce the incidence and mortality of cancer.

Achieving The Goal

It takes excellence to gain NCI cancer center designation. We must to strive for excellence from day one — that means recruiting excellent faculty, clinicians, researchers, and scientists; investing in cutting-edge technology to provide comprehensive care for our patients, and to enable outstanding cutting-edge research. The UNLV School of Medicine will lay the foundation for achieving NCI designation for the cancer center.

Building a Solid Core

You cannot achieve NCI cancer center designation overnight. It takes time. Our plan is to take a stepwise approach in building up to NCI cancer center designation. We’ll do this by first establishing core facilities — such as bioinformatics, genomics, clinical trials office, etc. — which are essential to supporting the clinicians and researchers who will offer personalized treatment to each patient at the cancer center. We also will establish disease-specific working groups that will focus on providing personalized care to patients and conducting clinical trials for various types of cancers, such as brain tumors, lung cancers, and head and neck tumors.

Patient-Centered Cancer Care

Our cancer center will be much more than a place to receive curative treatment. It will be a nurturing center of healing to rehabilitate the body and soul after receiving outstanding curative personalized therapy. We plan to have patient advocates to help each patient and families navigate their cancer care and other aspects of the health care system, such as clinical trials. We also will offer a variety of rehabilitation and healing approaches, including occupational therapy, physical therapy, and massage therapy — even alternative and holistic medicine approaches.

We plan to provide a fully integrated, comprehensive multi-modality, and individualized approach to cancer treatment.