Our Designation and History

nurse holding a patient's hand

The UNM Cancer Center is home to New Mexico's largest team of cancer experts, and our physicians provide cancer care that is unmatched in the state.

NCI Comprehensive Designation

The UNM Cancer Center is the only National Cancer Institute designated cancer center in
New Mexico. We are one of only 45 cancer centers in the nation to be designated by the NCI as a comprehensive cancer center, the highest federal designation and rating for cancer centers. As a comprehensive cancer center, we:

Deliver the highest quality, comprehensive cancer diagnosis and treatment. We are home to the state’s largest team of cancer physicians: 130 doctors in every cancer specialty recruited from the finest medical schools in the country and the world. They are supported by our 500-person staff, who work with them to develop a personalized treatment plan for each one of our patients.

Provide access to the newest cancer treatments in clinical trials. Working with our community partners, we built the New Mexico Cancer Care Alliance, a statewide network that provides access to new cancer drugs and treatments in more than 175 clinical studies each year. The NCI considers the Alliance to be an “exemplary national model for cancer health care delivery.” Through the Alliance, people throughout New Mexico can have access to clinical trials. We are also developing our ORIEN project, which will allow all of our patients the opportunity to have their cancer tissues genetically sequenced. Using this sequencing, we will be able to match them to the most promising new treatments, now and in the future.

Conduct world-class research. Our 130 cancer scientists are supported by more than $72 million annually. They work with our research partners at Sandia National Laboratories, Los Alamos National Laboratories and Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute, as well as with collaborators at New Mexico State University and other institutions. Our scientists have developed new diagnostics and drugs for leukemia, melanoma and cancers of the breast, ovaries, prostate, liver, pancreas and brain. Since 2010, they have garnered 33 new patents and 117 patents pending and have launched 13 new biotechnology companies.

Educate the next generation of cancer physicians, scientists and healthcare professionals. Since 2010, the UNM Cancer Center has trained more than 276 cancer scientists and 158 healthcare professionals, including physicians, nurses, and pharmacists. Our innovative education pipeline trains students from the high school level through the junior faculty level. Because we are part of the teaching hospital, your medical team may include fellows, residents, interns and other professionals-in-training under the instruction of our faculty.

The UNM Comprehensive Cancer Center Facility

The UNM Comprehensive Cancer Center offers world-class cancer treatment and a full range of support services in a beautiful, hopeful and healing environment.

State-of-the-Art Facility

In 2009, the UNM Cancer Center opened its $100 million 206,000 square foot Cancer Treatment and Clinical Research Facility in Albuquerque. This beautiful building offers a healing serene environment in which to receive the latest cancer treatments and technologies. The building offers plenty of space to house some extra-large exam rooms, a meditation chapel and our many patient and family support services that complement and enhance cancer treatment.

Designed around the idea of healing the whole person, the building features healing gardens, art alcoves, sunlight, natural materials and healing colors to create a warm environment. Our chemotherapy infusion suite on the top floor offers a stunning view of the Sandia Mountains. All of these features reflect our belief that healing is a journey that links all aspects of a person’s being.

This year, we are building out existing clinic space on the second and fourth floors. The additional space will be available next year and will allow us to add more programs and services. These include: a Women’s Cancer Center, a Surgical Oncology Specialties Center, a Bone Marrow/Stem Cell Transplant program and an Adolescent and Young Adult Survivors program. Building improvements on the first floor will add a cafeteria space for you, your family and our faculty and staff.

A History of Service

The UNM Cancer Center has a long history of service to the people of New Mexico and to the citizens of our nation affected by cancer. Founded in 1971 by the New Mexico legislature as a research and public service project, the UNM Cancer Center has grown into one of the nation’s leading cancer centers. In 2003, the state legislature recognized us as the Official Cancer Center of the State of New Mexico. It is an honor—and a responsibility—that we take very seriously. We lead the way in cancer care and research in the state. We are making major discoveries related to childhood leukemias, breast cancer and new diagnostic and treatment approaches that are contributing to cancer breakthroughs worldwide. As New Mexico’s only NCI-designated cancer center, we serve a vast region comparable in size to the area served by 20 NCI-designated centers on the East Coast. Our mission is:

  • to provide outstanding cancer diagnosis and treatment to the people of New Mexico;
  • to conduct world-class research to discover the causes of and cures for cancer;
  • to train the next generation of cancer healthcare professionals; and,
  • to partner with communities in our region to improve access to cancer care and to ensure that all New Mexicans benefit from advances in cancer research.

Our scientific discoveries and statewide research partnerships fuel New Mexico’s economic development and biotechnology growth. Today, we face the future with optimism and hope as we fight against cancer in our uniquely diverse, vast and beautiful state.

Community Partnerships

The UNM Cancer Center is proud to serve a region rich in multicultural and multiethnic diversity. We are committed to bringing world-class cancer care to every community in our region and ensuring that all New Mexicans benefit from the fruits of cancer research. The UNM Cancer Center is one of just three NCI-designated centers nationwide that treats patients regardless of their ability to pay. Last year alone, we provided $18 million in uncompensated cancer care.

Reflecting the state’s multiethnic makeup, more than half of our patients are Hispanic or Native American. Ethnic groups across the Southwest have unique cancer patterns, which the UNM Cancer Center has taken the lead nationwide in helping to understand and address. Discoveries related to links between cancer and ethnic ancestry are helping us pioneer more effective, customized approaches to diagnosing and treating cancer. Unfortunately, New Mexico has some of the nation’s worst cancer health disparities. Hispanic, Native American and other minority and rural populations are experiencing rising rates of cancer incidence, later stage of cancer diagnosis and higher mortality rates.

The UNM Cancer Center is working hard with diverse communities throughout New Mexico to understand, address and reduce these devastating cancer health disparities. We are collaborating with Tribal and rural partners to deliver culturally appropriate cancer education, screening, prevention and treatment programs. For example, our Cancer 101 educational program is reaching into every corner in the state, providing culturally relevant information and resources to all 19 of New Mexico’s pueblos, the Jicarilla Apache Nation and the Navajo Nation, as well as Hispanic and Spanish-speaking communities.

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