MCALLEN, Texas (ValleyCentral) — UT Health RGV held a groundbreaking ceremony on Friday for the new UT Health RGV Cancer & Surgery Center in McAllen.

“What it will do is bring world-class treatment for cancers to the Valley, and previously people had to go elsewhere, you’ve not been able to get that kind of treatment here,” said UTRGV President Dr. Guy Bailey.

Bailey said the new center is one of a kind and an important step for improving healthcare in the Rio Grande Valley.

Dr. Michael Hocker, the dean for UTRGV School of Medicine and Senior VP for UT Health RGV, said the new center is an opportunity for healthcare, education, and research for diseases and cancers that most affect people in RGV communities.

“Those would include GI cancers, liver cancers, breast cancer, colon cancer, and cervical cancer,” he said.

Dr. Hocker said they expect a 17% to 20% increase in cancer diagnosis in the next 10 years in the RGV.

The plan for the center is to research and care for adults, but that may change, according to Dr. Hocker.

“This primary facility will be adults, but we are working very closely with Driscoll Health System and looking at how we can partner with them with our pediatric specialist and providers that we have here at UTRGV,” he said.

The UT System Board of Regents approved almost $150 million to fund the center and the city of McAllen provided an additional $1 million for the project.

“The City of McAllen, we contributed a little bit. You know what, it might not be much but for us to be part of this project is an amazing thing,” said McAllen Mayor Javier Villalobos.

The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center is also involved in providing oncology and advisory services for the center.

The project is set to start construction in the coming weeks and should be seeing patients by the beginning of 2025, according to Bailey.