PALO ALTO, Calif. (KGO) -- There was a big announcement Friday by Stanford Medicine and federal officials, stating that work is now underway to develop a world-class cancer care and research center on the VA campus in Palo Alto.
"Each of us has either been affected by cancer or we have a relative, friend, a loved one who's experienced cancer," said Dr. Lloyd B. Minor, dean of Stanford Medicine.
Every year, more than 50,000 cancer cases are reported to the Veteran Affairs Central Cancer Registry.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs says that certain experiences during military service may put veterans at risk for cancer.
One main experience has to do with burn pits.
"(Burn pits are) a repository for waste in areas of deployment and combat operations, where everything was dumped in and burned," said Dr. Shereef Elnahal, under secretary of U.S. Veterans Affairs for Health, "The extremely large clouds of black smoke was something that nobody could avoid interacting with."
Elnahal says many members of the service inhaled that air every day during deployments.
"That has led to a significant number of conditions that our veterans are facing every day," he said, "From minor, more common conditions to deadly cancers."
With the signing of the PACT Act in 2022, the VA can expand healthcare and benefits to veterans exposed to burn pits and other toxic substances.
Those expanded benefits are coming just as the Department of Veterans Affairs and Stanford Medicine made the major announcement Friday that they will take advantage of the PACT Act and other opportunities to further cancer care and research.
"Including opportunities, such as the development of a cancer center for providing patient care, and also associated research facilities," Dr. Minor said.
VA Palo Alto, where the center would be located already has more than 1,000 trainees from Stanford that rotate and see patients on the campus.
"It's just logical that we wanted to provide state-of-the-art cancer care to our veterans," said Michael Kozal, VA Palo Alto's chief of staff.
Though the work currently done and planned on is focused on veterans, officials are optimistic that the help will have an even farther reach.
"We think this is going to benefit the society as a whole," Kozal said. "Because of the discoveries and also the research that's going to come out of this type of collaboration."
Plans for the center still have to jump legislative hurdles but officials say they're acting with urgency.
"We'll be exploring the next steps over the coming weeks," Minor said. "Stay tuned."
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