Veterans Affairs and Stanford Medicine announce intent to develop comprehensive cancer center

An anticipated growth in veterans seeking cancer care catalyzes talks to develop state-of-the-art collaboration between VA and Stanford Medicine.

- By Mark Conley

Among the speakers at Friday's press conference were (from left) Steve Artandi, Chief Cancer Officer, Stanford Medicine; Shereef Elnahal, Under Secretary for Health, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs; Jean Gurga, Interim Medical Center Director, VA Palo Alto Health Care System, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs; Michael Kozal, Chief of Staff, VA Palo Alto Health Care System, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs; Lloyd Minor, Dean, Stanford School of Medicine.
Mark Conley

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System and Stanford Medicine on Friday announced a collaboration on a project to potentially plan, build and operate a National Cancer Institute-designated joint cancer care and research center on the VA Palo Alto campus.

Stanford Medicine and Veterans Affairs (VA) leaders gathered at the Stanford School of Medicine to announce their signing of a memorandum of understanding to begin discussions that will have far-reaching implications for what is expected to be an increasing number of Bay Area veterans seeking treatment.

“We deeply value our partnership with the VA and are grateful for the opportunities that we've had to serve our nation’s veterans over the years,” said David Entwistle, Stanford Health Care president and CEO. “To be able to work together to serve our veterans when they have given so much to us, when we owe them a great debt of gratitude, is the epitome of this.”

President Joe Biden’s signing of the PACT Act in August 2022, which will increase the number of veterans seeking treatment for cancer, set the stage for the collaboration. The proposed project would support Biden’s Cancer Moonshot Initiative — which aims to cut the cancer death rate in half over the next 25 years — and related goals for prevention, earlier diagnosis, better treatments, and eliminating health care access inequities.

Shereef Elnahal, MD, VHA Under Secretary for Health, said the influx of veterans via the PACT Act could represent “the largest expansion of veteran’s benefits in history” and said the VA has consistently learned best practices from the collaboration between the VA Palo Alto Health Care System and Stanford Medicine.

“This is an announcement that solidifies that extraordinary relationship,” Elnahal said.

Leaders believe the project could expand specific cancer programs by integrating clinical trials into care, an important detail as the PACT Act opens the door to veterans needing care for conditions related to exposure to airborne toxins and other environmental hazards.

Shereef Elnahal, MD, VHA Under Secretary for Health.
Steffany Lingad, VA Palo Alto Health Care System

“Stanford and VA Palo Alto employ some of the brightest clinicians and researchers who are poised to meet this mission together,” said Jean Gurga, interim medical center director, VA Palo Alto Health Care System. “The veterans we serve deserve nothing less. And through this collaborative work, we can afford them and their families a brighter tomorrow.”

The proposed center would enhance cancer care for veterans and the community at large. The Stanford School of Medicine’s dean, Lloyd Minor, MD, echoed the enthusiasm for a potentially transformative collaboration and referenced the success of the 20-year-old Stanford Cancer Institute which received NCI designation as a clinical cancer center in 2007.  

“We see opportunities to elevate this crucial work and, in the process, set a new standard for cancer innovation,” Minor said. “I'm personally excited about the potential to contribute Stanford Medicine’s deep expertise in areas such as genomics, artificial intelligence, as well as our novel cancer engineering program, our innovative therapeutic and immunotherapy approaches, and our groundbreaking clinical trials. All in the service of our veterans and the broader community.”

The collaboration also has the possibility to advance health equity, Minor said: “It promises to expand access to clinical trials in underserved communities as well as research into the persistent health disparities in cancer outcomes.”

Paul King, president and CEO of Stanford Medicine Children’s Health, said the proposed joint cancer center and research center reflects a shared mission.

“It presents an opportunity to harness our strengths and redefine cancer care and research in a way that touches the lives of countless individuals, young and old,” he said. “We see the work happening here as a high tide that could potentially lift all boats, benefiting patients across the entire care continuum. I firmly believe that our shared potential will only be limited by our imagination.”

Elnahal said that giving those who served their country all possible treatment options by being connected directly to a research institution that regularly conducts clinical trials is the type of partnership that veterans deserve.

About Stanford Medicine

Stanford Medicine is an integrated academic health system comprising the Stanford School of Medicine and adult and pediatric health care delivery systems. Together, they harness the full potential of biomedicine through collaborative research, education and clinical care for patients. For more information, please visit

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