To make Malaga a benchmark for cancer research: that is the objective of a project which is being carried out by the Spanish government, Junta de Andalucía, Malaga provincial authority and the University of Malaga, and which will turn the Hospital Civil into a major international centre for research into prostate and breast cancer.
The initiative, which started life in 2015 at the Institute of Biomedical Research in Malaga (Ibima), has now taken a step further: it will be expanding its sphere of activity and moving into new premises.
The president of the Diputación, Malaga's provincial authority, Elías Bendodo, announced this week that this organisation will cede the nursing college building, which was built only five years ago on land at the hospital and has never been used, for the project.
In November 2015 it was announced that the National Centre for Oncological Research (CNIO), which is a Spanish government body, had reached an agreement with Ibima, which is run by the Junta de Andalucía, to set up a specialist unit for research into prostate cancer. This would be the first time the CNIO had a branch outside Madrid.
One of those behind this initiative is Emilio Alba, the head of Oncology at the Clínico and Carlos Haya hospitals. He explained this week that the prostate unit is currently in Ibima's premises in the Clínico hospital but it needs more space. For that reason, the provisional government was asked whether it would be possible for the unit to move into the nursing school, "because it is a modern, well-equipped building which would meet the needs of a major cancer research unit," he said.
Now all that remains to be done is for the Junta de Andalucía's Ministry of Health and the Diputación to sign an agreement for the building to be handed over. Once finalised, the present research team of eight doctors and the laboratory staff can move in. Emilio Alba explained that public and private funding will be sought to finance the expansion.
In addition to the prostate cancer research unit, which is headed by well-known specialist David Olmos, the new centre will also include a research unit for breast cancer.
"One out of every four cancers detected in Malaga is prostate or breast cancer. This unit will be a huge step forward for two reasons: it will be better for the patients because we are going to be able to offer them a new treatment and detect cancer earlier, and secondly it is good for the city because it will attract research projects from European and Spanish institutions as well as the pharmaceutical companies. It will be a source of wealth for Malaga," Dr Olmos explained at the launch of the project.
Due to open this year
When asked about the timescale, Emilio Alba was cautious, because there are still some administrative processes to complete, but he is sure that some time this year the major centre for research into prostate and breast cancer will be operative in its new location.
During his participation at an informative breakfast organised by Europa Press and the Cajasol Foundation, at which he was introduced by the Minister for Justice, Rafael Català, Elías Bendodo stressed the importance of a centre of this type for Malaga and the need for support by institutions such as the Diputación.
"We have been working on this centre for months; it will place Malaga at the forefront of the fight against cancer and I am confident that it will soon be a reality in the premises we own at the Hospital Civil. Malaga will become a national and international benchmark in clinical research and in training scientists in the battle against these types of cancer, which are so common and aggressive," he said. He also pointed out that every year about 1,200 cases of prostate cancer and 1,100 cases of breast cancer are detected in Malaga province.
Bendodo also stressed that Malaga has "one of the best oncologists in Spain and Europe" in Emilio Alba, and highlighted the important role played by Itziar Ochotorena, the manager of Ibima, in this project.
The disused nursing school building was built when the PSOE ran the Diputación and Salvador Pendón was president but was never put into service.
In 2011, when the Partido Popular took over, the works, which had cost about 700,000 euros, were already complete but it was decided not to go ahead with the nursing school because this was classified as an educational project and did not therefore come under the provincial government's jurisdiction.
The University of Malaga then took over responsibility for the 75 places which had been offered by the provincial government each year.
This meant that the nursing school building was available at the right time and it is now considered ideal as the home of the new research centre.