Funder gives $20 million for cancer center

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The Leon Levine Foundation in Charlotte has given $20 million to Carolinas HealthCare System to launch a cancer institute spanning 32 local hospitals, the Charlotte Observer reported Oct. 4.

The gift, the largest the foundation has made to a Charlotte-based organization, will allow the 32 hospitals of Carolinas HealthCare to improve access to cancer specialists, treatment, research and services.

Patients in smaller markets now will be able to participate in drug trials and new treatments and therapies at hospitals closer to their homes.

While some comprehensive cancer centers bring patients from around the world to one location for treatment, the Levine Cancer Institute plans to extend treatment options out to patients through the system’s 32 hospitals.

“If you’re in a small town, it’s going to change everything,” says Jeffrey Kneisl, medical director of the Blumenthal Cancer Center at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte. “You’re going to get the same quality of care that you could get in a big city without having to go there.”

The total cost of completing the Institute over the next decade is $500 million, $50 million of which will be used to expand the Morehead Medical Plaza II to over 200,000 square feet by the end of 2012 to serve as the Institute’s headquarters.

“Cancer is a disease that touches the lives of many families in the United States, including ours,” says Leon Levine, founder of Family Dollar stores. “This bold and innovative model of delivering research, treatment and education into the communities of the Carolinas served by Carolinas HealthCare System will have a dramatic and positive impact on the quality of life for cancer patients and their families.”

A search will begin soon for a president for the organization, and 10 specialists will be recruited to boost lung, breast, prostate, colorectal and gynecological cancer programs at Charlotte-area hospitals.

The gift from the Levine Foundation, founded by Leon Levine and his wife, Sandra, follows a $10 million donation lead gift that funded the Levine Children’s Hospital at Carolinas Medical Center.

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