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CHAPEL HILL – The University of North Carolina’s two medical schools and their cancer centers have signed a memorandum of understanding that creates a partnership to advance cancer research and bring leading-edge treatment to North Carolinians.

Officials at East Carolina University’s Brody School of Medicine and its Leo W. Jenkins Cancer Center, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s School of Medicine and its Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the UNC system signed a memorandum of understanding in December outlining basic aspects of an arrangement where they will work together to improve cancer care for North Carolinians and further research into the state’s leading cause of death.

“Service to North Carolina is a key part of the University’s mission, and this new partnership involving our two highly respected medical schools will help us advance and expand how we care for cancer patients, train physicians and conduct collaborative research that benefits our citizens,” said UNC President Erskine Bowles. “Working together, medical faculty and scientists at ECU and UNC-Chapel Hill can accomplish far more than they could individually. This is truly a case where two plus two can equal five.”

ECU Chancellor Steve Ballard said the agreement with Lineberger “represents another significant partnership in medical education with UNC-Chapel Hill. It will be important to the Leo Jenkins Cancer Center, to the Brody School of Medicine at ECU, and, most importantly, to the citizens of North Carolina.”

“This partnership exemplifies the role of top public medical schools to serve patients with leading-edge research and care. North Carolina’s two public medical schools and their cancer centers can offer more services for more people as a result of this collaboration,” said UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor James Moeser.

The two cancer centers already work together in some areas, said Dr. Adam Asch, associate director of the Jenkins Cancer Center. For example, oncology fellows at ECU travel to Chapel Hill to study bone marrow transplantation. Areas where the institutions might further cooperate include opening a clinic at ECU for pre- and post-transplant patients, expanding clinical trials to provide access and accrual to patients at both centers, giving ECU faculty members access to Lineberger facilities and research projects, and cancer survivorship.

Dr. Shelton Earp, UNC Lineberger director and professor of medicine and pharmacology, explained, “This important partnership will strengthen cancer research and care by creating an increased flow of ideas, clinical trials, prevention strategy projects, training opportunities and technologic advancements between our two institutions. Both our faculties and our patients will benefit.”

In 2006, cancer passed heart disease as the leading cause of death in North Carolina. The American Cancer Society estimated that in 2007 more than 34,000 North Carolinians were diagnosed with cancer and that close to 17,000 would die from their disease.