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The Senate on Tuesday approved legislation aimed at helping the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences pursue a National Cancer Institute-designated Cancer Center at the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute.

The Senate voted 35-0 to approve Senate Bill 151 by Sen. Missy Irvin, R-Mountain View, sending it to the House.

The bill would create the UAMS National Cancer Institute Designation Trust Fund, for money obtained from private grants or other sources.

The institute at UAMS will need funding between $10 million and $20 million per year to establish and maintain a National Cancer Institute-designated facility, according to the bill. Irvin said she's reviewing various fund-raising options.

The institute is committed to raising at least $30 million in private funds to support the pursuit of achieving status as a National Cancer Institute facility, SB151 states.

[RELATED: Complete Democrat-Gazette coverage of the Arkansas Legislature]

"We are in the process of raising that from private gifts," UAMS spokesman Leslie Taylor said in an email to this newspaper when asked.

There are 70 National Cancer Institute-designated cancer centers located in 36 states and the District of Columbia, including in the surrounding states of Texas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Tennessee.

-- Michael R. Wickline

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