Holden Center plays important role in University

By Paul D. Bowker
Posted 3/17/21

More than 40 years have passed since the University of Iowa’s Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center was founded.

It was only the beginning to a significant piece of the University of Iowa …

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Holden Center plays important role in University


More than 40 years have passed since the University of Iowa’s Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center was founded.

It was only the beginning to a significant piece of the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics campus that has achieved national and international recognition.

And it is home in Iowa — just a half hour car trip from Kalona.

In 2019 alone, the cancer center treated more than 24,000 Iowans. It has served patients from 49 of 50 U.S. states.

The facility’s newly expanded infusion center, constructed at a cost of $12 million, now consists of two floors in the Pomerantz Family Pavilion with 59 patient suites. It is in the infusion center where patients receive a variety of chemotherapy and immunotherapy treatments, sometimes for hours at a time, on an outpatient basis. Patients are also admitted to the hospital wing for inpatient treatments.

The infusion center offers breathtaking views of neighboring Kinnick Stadium and is openly designed so that patients can converse with each other during a long afternoon of infusions. Each suite has a TV. It is not unusual for an Iowan undergoing treatment to strike up a conversation with an out-of-state patient who has driven hundreds of miles for a treatment.

“Over the past five years, we have seen an 18% rise in the number of patients we treat,” said Dr. George Weiner, Director of the Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center. “Our success in offering our patients clinical trials that provide access to exciting new cancer treatments is growing even faster. It’s important for us to grow our capacity to ensure we continue to provide our patients with the care they need.”

The center also has its own pharmacy and parking garage for cancer patients and connects to all other UIHC buildings via a skyway system.

But Holden is more than a facility with a spacious infusion center.

Over the years, Holden has grown into a cancer center that is known not only for its clinical trials and studies, some of them done in combination with the Mayo Clinic, but also for its medical doctors who are experts in a number of cancer areas. Each patient is assigned a specific team of doctors and nurses who work within a specific area of cancer.

Those cancer areas are medical oncology, surgical oncology, radiation oncology, diagnostic imaging and radiology, pathology, pharmacology and genetic counseling.

In the cancer center’s annual report, Weiner said a unique aspect of Holden is its 12 multidisciplinary oncology groups, or MOGs, each focused on a different cancer type. Within these groups, Weiner said, researchers and clinicians work together to bring advances from the lab to the patients as quickly as possible.

Postgraduate students in the cancer biology program spend time with clinical oncologists and observe patients during their care.

“The shadowing was pretty eye opening,” said Keith Garcia, who went to the University of Iowa after completing an undergraduate degree in microbiology at the University of Texas.


Holden was designated a comprehensive cancer center in 2000 by the National Cancer Institute. The designation helps pave the way for tens of millions of dollars in federal research funding.

Two years later, in 2002, Holden received its first Specialized Programs of Research Excellence (SPORE) grant from the National Cancer Institute for lymphoma research. In 2015, Holden received another SPORE grant for neuroendocrine tumors – the first in the nation. And in 2016, Holden became a part of The White House’s Cancer Moonshot program to overcome cancer. The program was initiated by current U.S. President Joseph Biden while he was vice president in Barack Obama’s administration.

Holden is the only cancer center in Iowa to offer a phase 1 clinical trial of new therapies and techniques, which, for some, is one of the few remaining options after other treatments have failed.

In addition to treatments for patients, Holden also is home to a large research lab that is utilized for up to 300 ongoing clinical trials.


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