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Troubled Nevada Cancer Institute closes doors

The Nevada Cancer Institute opened in 2005 with plenty of promise.

"This is a real testimonial to what Nevada can do," said Heather Murren, the institute’s first CEO and the wife of MGM Resorts International CEO Jim Murren. "Within five to 10 years, we hope to be one of the National Cancer Institute’s Centers of Excellence."

But on Thursday, the last day of clinical operations, only a handful of the staff remained on hand in case some patients came in, although the last scheduled appointments were finished the day before. The promise of "transforming vision to reality," as etched onto one plaque, was officially snuffed out, although the end had become obvious weeks earlier.

A crew of about 20 people still works in the building, mainly to ensure the medical records of former patients are sent to the new physicians and clinics, CEO Chuck Dorman said. The branch of the Women’s Specialty Care practice will continue for two more months.

April, said Dorman, "is when our engagement ends. We’ll see what UCSD does."

University of California, San Diego, bought the institute out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy a year ago with the hope of reviving it. After concluding that it was not financially viable as a stand-alone practices, UCSD shifted course and decided to close the clinical practice. The next idea was to attract other practices to the building. But when legal problems sank that plan, locking the doors was the only option.

UCSD has not disclosed what it plans to do with the building.

On Thursday, the corridors were already empty. What was the gift shop had $1, $5 and $10 signs taped to empty shelves. A box of pens and pen-sized hand sanitizer sprayers were free to anyone who wanted them.

About a dozen employees, several in smocks, gathered at lunchtime in the otherwise closed coffee shop. When they left, some exchanged hugs and promises to let each other know when they found jobs, but declined to comment on their last day.

Contact reporter Tim O’Reiley at toreiley@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5290.

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