Moffitt Cancer Center is set to begin construction on the initial phase of a 775-acre campus in Pasco County that, when complete, will have 16 million square feet of lab, clinical, office and manufacturing space and will lead to what officials hope is a revolution in how the disease is treated.
The project itself could take years, if not decades, to fully complete, but Moffitt is holding a ceremonial groundbreaking Friday, Jan. 20, that will kick off construction on the first phase of the new campus.
The first phase of development will include building several facilities totaling 650,000 square feet, including 300,000 square feet dedicated to research space. Construction is expected to last until 2028.
When the project is fully complete, Moffitt says about 14,000 employees will work out 140 buildings and that 6 miles of new roads will be built to connect the campus.
The campus, which is being built off of Ridge Road in Pasco, will be called Speros FL. The name comes from the Latin word Sperare, which means to hope.
Patrick Hwu, Moffitt’s president, CEO and a practicing doctor, says “you cannot separate cancer research and treatment from hope.”
He sees Speros as a way for Moffitt to “be the global epicenter for personalized oncology care and leading research that will revolutionize the way we prevent, find and treat cancer.”
To date, there has been some minor construction on-site in preparation for the bigger work to start.
The work that will now begin is being called Phase 1A and will focus on getting the initial needed infrastructure on the property. The completion of Phase 1 will be when buildings are up and the campus is open.
A Moffitt spokesperson says in an email that “Phase 1 and Phase 1A are similar but not identical.”
The cost for Phase 1A is $1.6 billion. Moffitt, the state of Florida and Pasco County are investing a combined $600 million with the remaining $1 billion coming from private sector investments.
Of the $600 million, Moffitt says $200 million will be for research, $80 million for clinical, $70 million for proton therapy and $100 million for infrastructure.
What the cost for the entire project will be is tough to tell right now, especially since the project could take as long as 30 years to fully build and the need for public and private funding.
While Moffitt is adorning its new center with the name Speros, those who have experienced cancer, firsthand or otherwise, know hope is not a word always associated with the disease. But there is some cause for optimism as cancer deaths drop in the United States.
According to the American Cancer Society, the cancer death rate for men and women fell 32% in 2019 from its peak in 1991. And, a Jan. 12 study published in CA: Cancer Journal for Clinicians reported that there has been a 33% reduction in cancer since 1991 with and an estimated 3.8 million deaths averted.
One of several reasons for the drop is treatments, including advances in immunotherapy, Hwu’s specialty.
In a November interview Hwu told the Business Observer that he’s already seeing the effects of immunotherapy in patients with melanoma. A decade ago, “just about” all his patients with advanced melanoma would die within a year. Today, more than half are living long lives.
But, despite the number of deaths dropping, he says there remains much to do and Speros FL will go a long way toward helping Moffitt find and improve treatments. Or more.
“Still we have 600,000 deaths per year, … but we’ve got to drop it to zero,” Hwu said in November. “At Moffitt we don’t think dying of cancer is a natural cause of death. We think we can prevent and treat them all. Eventually.”