Here’s what the Moffitt Cancer Center has accomplished in 35 years


Over 40 years ago, the deaths of three young friends led me on a mission to establish a cancer center in Florida. At the time, Florida had a high incidence of cancer but no full cancer center. My friends, like many other Floridians, wanted the best care and needed treatment out of state. It was painful to watch. It was then that I decided Florida needed its own full cancer center.

H. Lee Moffitt [ Provided ]

At the time, I was newly elected to the Florida House of Representatives and did not realize the difficulties I was going to face. For help, I turned to the founder of the Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Dr. R. Lee Clark. He said to me, “I want you to learn from my mistakes and create a cancer center in Florida that is as good as any in the world. He walked me through the steps to shape Moffitt’s unique medical structure – multidisciplinary cancer patient care. It allows for a unique focus and enhanced level of specialization that extends beyond the clinic and into our scientific team approach to research.

This structure has enabled the Moffitt Cancer Center to set a standard for the future. But it was not easy. Despite the challenges, 38 years ago the Florida legislature funded the creation of a cancer center – spending a portion of the state cigarette tax on construction – an appropriate source of revenue. We have become the first independent cancer treatment and research center established by a state legislature and the only cancer-fighting institution in the country funded in part by the tobacco sales tax.

Thirty-five years ago, we opened our doors to our first patients. It was a glorious occasion that warms my heart to this day.

In no time, Moffitt became the only national cancer center at the National Cancer Institute in Florida, a testament to the depth and breadth of our research. No other center in the country had achieved this prestigious designation so quickly.

Today, Moffitt has grown into one of the nation’s largest cancer centers. Our cancer challenge is still a reality. Florida has the second highest cancer incidence in a state with the third largest population.

While we still have work to do, we have made tremendous progress over the years. We have helped approximately half a million patients in Florida’s 67 counties, 50 states, and over 130 countries.

Research is essential if we are to continue to find better treatments and cures. Our research mission leads to better results and gives hope to those struggling with this terrible disease.

We discover scientific innovations that are transposed in the clinic to save lives. Some examples: We are a leader in cell therapy, which harnesses a patient’s immune system to attack and destroy cancer cells. This includes modifying tumor cells to destroy the tumor itself while skillfully leaving healthy cells alone. Our work to optimize the HPV vaccine has the power to eliminate cervical cancer and five other HPV-related diseases. Did you know that there have been over 20 groundbreaking FDA approvals for treating melanoma – and Moffitt has been involved in all of them? We are the first to have an integrated mathematical oncology team that uses mathematics to better understand, predict and treat cancer. We are also developing vaccines not only to treat cancer, but eventually to prevent it as well.

These successes are possible because we seek to recruit the best and the brightest. Our doctors and researchers come from the best institutions because they believe in our mission and the difference we can make at Moffitt. We train more oncology students each year than any other institution in Florida. This includes 400 medical students and 500 residents and fellows of our clinical training program, as well as 130 nursing students and nursing residents. Our Doctorate in Cancer Biology program was the first in Florida in 2001 and has 71 graduates.

The citizens of Florida believe in our mission, with over 250,000 private donors who have given us millions over the years. Moffitt guarantees a return on public and private investment with a positive economic impact for Florida of more than $ 2.4 billion per year.

Former governors, U.S. senators, state legislators, and dynamic business and community leaders sit on our boards. Their experience and influence is unmatched, with 13 serving members 20 years or more. Without this practical, roll-up support, Moffitt would not be the state resource that it is today.

We never forget that Moffitt was created by the Legislature to fight cancer. Our CEO is the only one in the country whose powers are enumerated in state law. State and federal legislative support over the years has been exceptional.

I expect much more progress and success in the next 35 years. We are building an extension hospital on McKinley which is slated to open in 2023. We will be the first to create an epicenter of healthcare innovation, research and education – a life sciences destination for the world – on 775 acres in Pasco County.

My sincere thanks go to so many people: to all those who have worked in the vineyards at all levels; the doctors and nurses who have touched so many lives; the team members who helped achieve our highest evaluation scores; and scientists at the forefront of cutting-edge research.

Thank you for celebrating with us! Your cancer center is making a difference as we continue to stay true to our mission: to help prevent and cure cancer.

H. Lee Moffitt is a former speaker of the Florida House of Representatives and the founder of the Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute.

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