In 1980, Florida had the highest rate of cancer in the nation. Despite this, there were no cancer hospitals easily accessible to residents of the Southeast United States. H. Lee Moffitt, a graduate of the University of South Florida and member of the Florida House of Representatives, proposed a remedy to this issue: a new cancer research center located at the University of South Florida.
Moffitt knew that having a cancer center in Tampa would benefit the local community and the greater Florida area, but support was hard to find, and concerns arose over the cost of the facility and how it would be paid for. Moffitt asked for $37.5 million from the Florida Legislature to fund the hospital, but Governor Bob Graham vetoed the request.
However, success came in part during the spring of 1980, when the USF Board of Regents received a grant of $600,000 dollars to conduct a study to see if a cancer research hospital was needed in Florida. In 1983 the groundbreaking ceremony commenced as the 162 bed, 70-million-dollar facility began its construction. The work took several years, with the finishing touches put on the research in 1986. The hospital was dedicated to the man who helped spearhead the project, H. Lee Moffitt. On October 27th, 1986, after a nine-year struggle, the Moffitt Cancer Center opened with a party, balloons, and the Mystic Sheiks of Morocco band from the nearby Busch Gardens. A number of prominent local and state leaders were also present to celebrate the opening of the first cancer treatment and research center in the state of Florida.
As the hospital continues to expand throughout Tampa, new facilities are being built at the USF location, such as a research tower funded by a $15 million donation from Vincent A. Stabile. The hospital continues to receive grants from the government, non-profits, and civilians alike. In 2016, the center is rated as the sixth best cancer hospital in the United States.
As of 2016, Moffitt has become one of the most prominent cancer hospitals in the country. Moffitt is an important part of USF’s medical program and allows students research opportunities otherwise unavailable to them. Many significant medical breakthroughs have occurred at Moffitt. In 1990, the center was accredited by the National Marrow Donor Program. One of the most important recent discoveries made at Moffitt was the discovery of a key protein in tumors, called Stat3, which allows a tumor to grow in the body without being detected by the immune system. This discovery could help lead to prevention of tumors and cancer cell growth. While a cure for cancer has not yet been found, the work Moffitt is doing is indispensable in the search for one.