In 1978, H. Lee Moffitt, a Florida State Representative, recognized the need for a comprehensive cancer center within the State. With the help of the dean of the University of South Florida College of Medicine, he sought community support and convinced the State Legislature to fund the facility. During the Center’s planning phase, consultants associated with renowned NCI cancer centers were retained to ensure that the finished facility would be as technologically advanced and as efficiently designed as possible.
Groundbreaking ceremonies took place in January 1983. The Center was incorporated in the spring of 1984 and was named for H. Lee Moffitt, then Speaker of the State House of Representatives. The building was dedicated in October 1986 and admitted its first patients that same month.
In 1990, the acquisition of the Research Center building across from the Cancer Center enhanced the recruitment of scientists, clinicians and support staff and expanded Moffitt’s vision beyond the original structure. The Moffitt Research Center became the focal point for basic and translational cancer research with the overriding goal to produce discoveries that could be translated quickly from the bench to the patient’s bedside. The Florida Legislature allocated $12 million for renovation and equipment for this structure, and the Moffitt Research Center became fully operational in 1995. In 1999, of basic research lab space was added to the Moffitt Research Center at a cost of $11 million to house the growing need for additional scientists.
In 1991, Moffitt successfully recruited John "Jack" Ruckdeschel, M.D., to the position of Center Director, President and CEO. Under Ruckdeschel's leadership, Moffitt became a National Cancer Institute (NCI) Comprehensive Cancer Center in 2001 – one of the youngest Centers in the country to achieve this prestigious designation. In 2006, the NCI renewed Moffitt’s Cancer Center Support Grant for another five years. The NCI review highlighted the following strengths of Moffitt Cancer Center: expanded research in cancer prevention and control; active collaboration between bench and clinical scientists; significant focus on early-phase, investigator-initiated clinical trials; careful recruitment of scientists in molecular and cancer genetics; and the potential to expand the reach of Moffitt research with the Total Cancer Care initiative. Currently Moffitt receives more than $50 million annually in peer-reviewed grant monies.
In 2002, Ruckdeschel stepped down, and William "Bill" Dalton, Ph.D., M.D., became Moffitt's third President, CEO and Center Director.
Moffitt has 161 licensed beds and more than 3,000 employees. There are scientific programs in Molecular Oncology, Drug Discovery, Immunology, Experimental Therapeutics, Health Outcomes and Behavior and Risk Assessment, Detection and Intervention. It also serves as the site for the Bill and Beverly Young National Functional Genomics Center, funded by the U.S. Department of Defense.
To enhance Moffitt’s ability to establish this large research initiative the cancer center formed a for-profit company, M2GEN, located in Hillsborough County. The state of Florida, Hillsborough County and City of Tampa, are providing economic incentives to bring this biotechnology effort to Florida.
In January 2008 the Moffitt Center, the University of Florida, and Shands formed a partnership to develop world-class programs in cancer care, research and prevention. The partnership, will extend Moffitt’s innovative model of comprehensive patient care to UF and Shands cancer programs.