Wallace Tumor Institute

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Under renovation in March 2010.

The Lurleen B. Wallace Radiation Therapy and Tumor Institute (commonly the Wallace Tumor Institute or WTI), is 6-story, 154,000 square-foot building housing clinical cancer research for the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Located on the corner of 6th Avenue South and 19th Street, the institute was constructed with funds generated through the "Lurleen B. Wallace Courage Crusade", established by Governor Albert Brewer in memory of his predecessor, Lurleen Wallace. Wallace died of cancer in 1968 following years of treatment for which she had to travel to Texas.

The program was officially created in 1970 with Durant as director. Five million dollars raised through the Lurleen Wallace Courage Crusade was combined with funding from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and UAB to establish a cancer program at UAB in 1970. Construction of the 38,000 square-foot, $15 million Wallace Tumor Institute was begun in 1974 and completed in December 1976. An associated 80-bed inpatient facility, the Lurleen B. Wallace Tower, opened in June 1979. The construction of the new facility strengthened the designation of UAB's cancer research center as one of eight national "Comprehensive Cancer Centers" by the NCI.

A capital drive was launched in 1985 to expand the center. A DNA sequencer was purchased in 1987 to aid research and a 600 MHz nuclear magnetic resonance spectrometer was acquired in 1988. In 1991 the center broke ground for a 45,000 square-foot three-story addition. The center's faculty grew to 220 as the addition opened in 1992 and ambulatory care facilities were relocated to the new Kirklin Clinic. Among the new laboratories created was a Pathogen Free Rodent facility, partially funded by the NCI.

Plaque describing renovation work.

In 2008 UAB announced a $30 million renovation of the Institute, which had been criticized as "unattractive and inefficient" in internal documents. The project simplified floorplans and added light-filled atrium spaces on the upper three floors and a new lobby on the ground floor. A new exterior facing upgraded the building's appearance on campus. Williams Blackstock Architects of Birmingham collaborated with Payette of Boston, Massachusetts on the redesign.

The work was completed in phases, with the top floors opening in November 2010 and the lobby and administration areas completed by August 2011. The completed project opened in September 2013. During construction the Institute's radiation and oncology programs were moved to the UAB Radiation Oncology Building. Construction funds, which eventually totaled more than $50 million, were raised primarily through state bonds.

Currently the center supports the work of 228 basic scientists, 72 clinical science investigators and 56 cancer control professionals. In 2008 the center was awarded $139 million in research grants.

References

  • A Legacy of Love: The Story of the Lurleen B. Wallace Foundation and the Courage Crusade. Birmingham: UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center
  • UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center history
  • Wolfson, Hannah (September 20, 2008) "Wallace Tumor Center $30 million renovation scheduled." The Birmingham News
  • Hansen, Jeff (December 30, 2009) "UAB cancer center building gets revamp." The Birmingham News
  • Oliver, Mike (August 20, 2013) "Sneak peek of $50 million renovation of UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center's hub." The Birmingham News

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