Noted Oncologist Dr. William Cance Named Interim Director of UA Cancer Center

Dr. Cance will oversee clinical operations and research, while leading the UA Cancer Center’s efforts to renew its NCI Cancer Center Support Grant in 2020.

William Cance, MD, deputy director of the University of Arizona Cancer Center in Phoenix and a renowned oncology surgeon and physician-scientist, has been appointed interim director of the UA Cancer Center, effective July 1, 2019.

The appointment was made by UA Senior Vice President for Health Sciences Michael D. Dake, MD.

“Dr. Cance has made enormous strides in Phoenix and across the state to establish a culture of collaboration to advance cancer care and treatment,” Dr. Dake said. “His keen focus on collaboration will enhance programs, advance basic science, reduce disparities and elevate the UA Cancer Center’s reputation for excellence in service to our state.”

Dr. Cance, who joined the UA in October 2016, also is a professor in the Departments of Interdisciplinary Oncology, Pharmacology and Toxicology, and Surgery in the UA Colleges of Medicine and Pharmacy – Phoenix.

Dr. Cance succeeds Andrew Kraft, MD, who has stepped down as director of the UA Cancer Center, a position he held since September 2014. Dr. Kraft will remain at the center as associate director of research. 

As interim director, Dr. Cance will oversee all clinical operations and research for the UA Cancer Center and will have a primary leadership role in the UA Cancer Center’s September 2020 submission for renewal of its five-year Cancer Center Support Grant (CCSG) through the National Cancer Institute (NCI).

“Our major focus over the next year will be on the CCSG renewal,” Dr. Cance said. “Across our programs, we will have formal strategic planning, strategic programmatic development and will be hiring new faculty in essential roles. We will also strengthen our efforts to implement innovative approaches in clinical cancer care by translating scientific progress into new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer.”

The UA Cancer Center is one of 49 NCI Comprehensive Cancer Centers in the nation and is the only one based in Arizona. The UA Cancer Center first received Comprehensive Cancer Center status – the highest ranking given by the NCI – in 1990.

“The hallmark of a comprehensive cancer center is that you achieve a special level of excellence in your cancer programs,” Dr. Cance said.

“You have broad, deep research programs that translate to patient care, cancer prevention and control and have the ability to take science to patients. It is also essential that we collaborate across our different programs to have the maximal effects from our research efforts.”

One of the key mandates that the UA Cancer Center must satisfy for its CCSG renewal is to address the cancer burden in an identified “catchment area.” For the UA Cancer Center, that encompasses the entire state of Arizona.

“It’s really about the people of Arizona,” Dr. Cance said. “We have to show we're making progress and meaningful contributions to the people in our communities.”

The UA Cancer Center has dozens of research and educational offices throughout the state, including primary locations in Tucson and Phoenix. Dr. Cance will balance his time with researchers, staff and health-professions students at both locations.

Dr. Cance is the principal investigator on a 25-year R01 grant from the National Cancer Institute focusing on focal adhesion kinase (FAK), a therapeutic target in cancer. He has been awarded numerous other NCI and National Institutes of Health grants, as well as funding from the American Cancer Society, the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation and the U.S. Department of Defense. He has served on the NCI Board of Scientific Counselors and is a member of NCI Subcommittee F, which focuses on institutional training and education. His cancer focus and expertise includes thyroid cancer, parathyroid disease and soft tissue sarcoma. He is board-certified in general surgery.

“I believe in empowering people to do the things they do best,” Dr. Cance said. “Then it is my job as interim director to support them, to bring resources into the UA Cancer Center. We have to try to work all avenues to increase support from the state, federal and philanthropic levels.”

Dr. Cance received his medical degree from Duke University; completed his residency in general surgery at Barnes Hospital/Washington University School of Medicine and a fellowship in surgical oncology at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

About the University of Arizona Cancer Center

The University of Arizona Cancer Center is the only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center with headquarters in Arizona. The UA Cancer Center is supported by NCI Cancer Center Support Grant No. CA023074. With primary locations at the University of Arizona in Tucson and at Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix, the UA Cancer Center has more than a dozen research and education offices throughout the state, with more than 300 physicians and scientists working together to prevent and cure cancer. For more information: uacc.arizona.edu (Follow us: Facebook | Twitter | YouTube)