Director's Overview

Cheryl Willman, MD
Director & CEO
UNM Cancer Center

It’s been 49 years since the New Mexico state legislature made its first appropriation to establish a cancer center to serve the people of New Mexico. We’ve grown and changed greatly since then, but we hold fast to our mission to provide world-class care to all New Mexicans affected by cancer. Last year alone, we saw more than 13,000 patients from every county in New Mexico. We treat about 65% of New Mexico's cancer patients. Our team of cancer experts is the largest and most experienced in New Mexico; we’re home to 146 board-certified oncologists and 102 cancer scientists who were recruited from some of the nation’s leading institutions.

Over the last two decades, we have evolved from an excellent regional institution into a nationally recognized comprehensive cancer center whose clinicians and scientists are making important contributions to cancer treatment, diagnosis and prevention. In 2005, we first achieved our designation from the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the leading federal agency for cancer research and training. In 2010, a team of top cancer experts affirmed our national leadership in cancer care and research by competitively renewing our designation. In 2015, we achieved comprehensive designation, the highest federal designation. We are the only cancer center in New Mexico designated by the NCI and one of just 51 NCI-designated comprehensive cancer centers in the nation, which places us among the top three percent of cancer centers in the country. NCI-designated comprehensive cancer centers are acclaimed for their scientific excellence, contributions to cancer research, innovative training of the next generation of cancer healthcare and scientific professionals, and delivery of medical advances to patients and their families.

Our scientists are currently supported by almost $36.2 million in federal, state and private funds — funds that advance New Mexico’s economic and technological development even as they improve the health and well-being of the state’s residents. Groundbreaking discoveries in women’s cancers, targeted nanotherapeutics and childhood leukemia, among other areas, underscore the caliber of our research and the commitment of our scientists. As the Official Cancer Center of New Mexico, we are translating those discoveries into better diagnosis and treatment for all New Mexicans by offering innovative clinical trials. In particular, we are leading the way in investigating and addressing the causes and consequences of cancer health disparities among the diverse peoples of the Southwest. And, we have launched the Oncology Research Information Exchange Network (ORIEN) project to give New Mexicans the choice of having their tumor tissues genomically analyzed and matched to the most promising treatments.

We have been very fortunate over the past 49 years to have the strong support of the New Mexico state legislature. With their help, the overwhelming support of New Mexicans, and funds from many individual and corporate donors, we responded to the critical need for a state-of-the-art cancer care facility in New Mexico by building a $100 million 206,432 square-foot Cancer Treatment and Clinical Research Facility. As beautiful as it is technologically and medically advanced, this ‘home for hope’ has been open to patients since 2009. In the past two years, we opened new space in the facility to expand or introduce 17 clinic and service lines. We are proud to provide the cutting-edge compassionate care that New Mexicans deserve in a serene, healing environment that reflects the natural and cultural heritage of our state.

Outside of Albuquerque, our statewide network of clinic collaborations and educational programs continues to grow. More than 40 percent of our patients come from outside Bernalillo county, and we are reaching record numbers of New Mexicans across the state with lifesaving cancer care and culturally appropriate education and outreach. The New Mexico Cancer Care Alliance, an independent organization founded by the UNM Cancer Center in collaboration with community partners, is ensuring that all New Mexicans have access to the latest and highest quality clinical trials of new treatments.

On behalf of all faculty, staff, supporters, and friends of the UNM Cancer Center, thank you for joining us in our fight against cancer. Whether you are a journalist covering an important public health topic, a prospective donor, or a fellow community member and friend, we are deeply grateful for your interest and support.

With warmest regards,

Cheryl L. Willman, MD
The Maurice and Marguerite Liberman Distinguished Chair in Cancer Research
Distinguished Professor of Pathology and Medicine, UNM School of Medicine
Director & CEO, University of New Mexico Comprehensive Cancer Center

Read the 2017 ACOS Annual Report Executive Summary.