University of Kentucky Starts Work on Cancer & Ambulatory Center

By HCO Staff

LEXINGTON, Ky.—The University of Kentucky broke ground today on the new UK Cancer and Advanced Ambulatory Building, located across from UK Albert B. Chandler Hospital on South Limestone. The 550,000-square-foot facility will become the new home to the UK Markey Cancer Center, Kentucky’s only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, as well as a Comprehensive Spine Center, ambulatory surgery space, and other outpatient services.  The Cancer and Advanced Ambulatory Building and an adjacent 2,400-space parking structure are slated for completion in 2027.

“As Kentucky’s flagship university, we have a responsibility to lead the way in health care,” said UK President Eli Capilouto. “This building signifies our commitment to addressing the critical health needs of our state, providing advanced care across various disciplines and ensuring that Kentuckians have access to the most innovative treatments close to home.”

“Congratulations to the University of Kentucky on today’s groundbreaking and for helping advance health care across the Commonwealth,” Gov. Andy Beshear said. “This new state-of-the-art facility will help more of our Kentucky families defeat cancer and access the critical health care services they need to be healthy and thrive here at home.”

“This precision programming is the next level in clinical research that may bring critical, early diagnosis and individualized care for far better cancer outcomes than we experience today,” said Kentucky Senate President Robert Stivers. “Investing in this project now is investing in the next generation of healthier Kentuckians.”

Currently, Markey’s outpatient services are located in six different areas across the UK Chandler Hospital campus. The new facility will bring Markey Cancer Center’s outpatient clinics and oncology support services under one roof – providing convenience for patients and fostering collaboration among Markey clinicians and researchers.

“This facility will enable our talented clinicians and researchers to work together like never before, accelerating innovations that will directly translate into better outcomes for our patients,” said B. Mark Evers, M.D., director of the UK Markey Cancer Center. “In a state that still holds the highest cancer rates, this building represents our commitment to expanding care, growing our capacity, and ultimately, conquering cancer in the Commonwealth.”

The building will house Markey outpatient clinics including chemotherapy infusion, radiation medicine, multidisciplinary oncology, gynecologic oncology, breast care center and hematology/bone marrow transplant. Designed to provide a streamlined patient experience, the facility will also include a full spectrum of cancer care services including imaging, lab, urgent care, pharmacy, palliative care and rehabilitation.

The new facility builds upon the momentum of Markey’s September 2023 designation as an NCI Comprehensive Cancer Center. The NCI’s highest designation, held by only 57 cancer centers nationwide, recognizes excellence in basic, clinical and community-based research. With the NCI designation, Markey is uniquely positioned to offer the latest clinical trials and most advanced treatments.

“The new facility embodies the research-driven, transdisciplinary care that is the hallmark of an NCI-Designated Comprehensive Cancer Center by providing the infrastructure to expand clinical trials, accelerate discoveries, and ensure our patients have access to the most innovative treatments available,” said Robert S. DiPaola, UK provost and co-executive vice president for health affairs.

Additionally, the building will feature expanded space for Markey’s Cellular Therapy Program and its Precision Medicine Clinic, the only in Kentucky to offer early phase clinical trials for adult cancer patients. The expanded space will give even more patients in Kentucky access to the next generation of cancer treatments, including personalized medicine tailored to patients’ unique genetic profiles and innovative cellular therapies that harness the immune system to kill cancer.

In addition to cancer services, the new building will also house a new Comprehensive Spine Center with a transdisciplinary approach dedicated to offering a wide range of services designed to diagnose, treat and prevent spinal conditions.

This will include experts working together to provide the best option for patients from four key departments – orthopedics, physical medicine and rehabilitation, neurosurgery and anesthesiology. The collaborative space will also foster new transdisciplinary research and education opportunities in these areas.

“As the academic health system that serves all of Central and Eastern Kentucky, it’s our responsibility to provide the care our citizens need,” said Colleen Swartz, D.N.P., acting UK HealthCare chief operations officer. “The issue of chronic pain is one that affects the quality of life and the livelihoods of tens of millions of Americans. In this new facility, we’ve taken the opportunity to build out a solution to help Kentuckians who suffer from back pain. Bringing all these disciplines together into one building is not only convenient for patients, but it allows our experts to more easily collaborate to determine the best course of treatment for each individual patient.”

The new facility will also have a floor dedicated to ambulatory surgery and procedural space focused on cancer-related surgeries. This area will include eight operating rooms capable of accommodating endoscopic procedures as well as intake, recovery bays, central sterile and endoscopic processing units.

The UK Board of Trustees approved initial planning and design in May 2021. Project partners include Walsh Construction, HGA Architects and Engineers, and Champlin Architecture.

The UK Cancer and Advanced Ambulatory Building was designed with patient input to ensure a streamlined and supportive experience. Design features include generous green spaces, abundant natural light, and dedicated areas for meditation, dining, and collaboration to promote wellness for patients, families, and staff.

The complex was also designed with shelled space for future growth, reflecting UK HealthCare’s dedication to meeting the ever-evolving needs of cancer patients from Kentucky and across the region.

In the past 10 years, Markey outpatient clinic visits have increased by 57%, including more than 120,000 patient visits in fiscal year 2021.

“In the past decade, we have seen an incredible increase in the number of patients who need the level of expertise that our physicians and health care staff provide,” said Eric Monday, co-executive vice president for health affairs. “With 300,000 square feet of space dedicated to cancer services and room for additional growth, this facility will give us the ability to treat and heal even more Kentuckians for years to come.”

Construction for the project is being funded by UK HealthCare. State and private funds will be used to support Markey programs and services in the new facility. In 2021, UK HealthCare announced a historic $10 million gift from Central Bank – the largest in UK HealthCare history – to help expand patient care. The gift launched a joint campaign with the Markey Cancer Foundation to raise $90 million to improve cancer care in Kentucky.