University of Texas at Austin and MD Anderson Cancer Center will partner to create a new $2.5 billion hospital

The Dell Seton Medical Center at The University of Texas at Austin on July 7. UT-Austin will expand its medical facilities by partnering with MD Anderson Cancer Center to create a new $2.5 billion cancer treatment hub. (Allie Goulding/The Texas Tribune, Allie Goulding/The Texas Tribune)

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The University of Texas at Austin and one of the most well-known cancer treatment centers in the world are partnering to build a new $2.5 billion medical hub geared toward serving Central Texas.

The University of Texas System Board of Regents Chair Kevin Eltife announced Monday plans to create the new facility in partnership with the MD Anderson Cancer Center, the nation’s No. 1 cancer hospital. MD Anderson is part of the university system and has several locations in the Houston area.

“The establishment of the University of Texas at Austin Medical Center, with UT MD Anderson Cancer Center adjacent to a new university hospital and access to all of UT-Austin’s education and research assets, will undoubtedly result in transformative cancer care, provide students at the flagship campus with unmatched experiences, and benefit patients throughout the state and nation for all time,” Eltife said.

Gov. Greg Abbott, who joined Eltife in making the announcement, called the project a transformative move for the state.

“People from Indiana travel to Houston to get the best cancer care in the world. Similarly, people across Texas travel to Houston to access the best cancer care in our state and country. But rather than having Texans travel to Houston, we will now be bringing the world’s best cancer care to them right here in Central Texas,” Abbott said.

The facility will have two medical towers, one for the cancer center and the other for the new university hospital. It will be located at the current downtown location of UT-Austin’s Frank Erwin Center, formerly a multipurpose facility.

The cancer center will have 150 inpatient beds for treatment, 230 outpatient exam rooms and will include many of the same features as the MD Anderson hospital in Houston, including bone marrow transplantation and multiteam surgery.

UT MD Anderson President Peter Pisters said the cancer center will no longer be known as a Houston institution, but a Texas one.

“One institution and now two cities,” he said.

Pisters said MD Anderson in Houston has already served many patients from Central Texas throughout the years, including 5,000 Austin residents as of 2020.

MD Anderson has multiple locations outside the Houston metro area and radiation treatment centers in League City, Sugar Land and Conroe. It established the UT Health San Antonio MD Anderson Cancer Center in 2016.

UT-Austin Dell Medical School Dean Claudia F. Lucchinetti, said the new university hospital will focus on specialized care.

“We will work alongside our partners to deliver the complex life-saving care that central Texans need right here at home,” she said.

Besides creating new jobs and a new source of revenue in Austin, the proposed medical center is expected to develop new medical technology.

“We won’t be simply building a traditional academic medical center or one that exists on the island,” UT-Austin President Jay Hartzell said at a press conference held Monday. “We have an opportunity that is unique in Texas and only possible in a few places in the world to build an academic medical center that is linked to a top research university and driven by innovations in technology, digital health, data science, artificial intelligence, robotics, material science and more.”

Texas has a history of supporting cancer research with voters approving in 2019 giving millions in grants to Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, a state organization that has become an international leader in the field in less than a decade since its creation.

Disclosure: Dell, MD Anderson Cancer Center, University of Texas at Austin and University of Texas System have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

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