By Michelle G. McRuiz

A “Gem” of a Facility

Marcia Lubar Donates to UNM Comprehensive Cancer Center Patient Care Fund in Husband’s Memory

When someone you love becomes ill, you naturally want them to receive the best care possible. For Marcia Lubar, there was only one facility for her husband Larry when his cancer recurred: The University of New Mexico Comprehensive Cancer Center.

“Our Cancer Center is a gem,” Marcia says. “There’s nothing else like it in the state.”

lubar-photo-with-cancer-center-leadership-3.1.2023.jpgThe UNM Comprehensive Cancer Center is the only facility in New Mexico – and one of only 53 in the country – that holds a Comprehensive designation from the National Cancer Institute. The designation means the UNM Cancer Center meets rigorous standards for research, treatment and leadership.

While Larry was receiving cancer treatment in 2016, he and Marcia spent a lot of time in waiting rooms. She recalls seeing patients who were poor and very ill. That memory and their deep appreciation for the Cancer Center spurred the couple to make regular gifts to the facility. After he passed away on Dec. 7, 2020, Marcia wanted to cap off her gratitude with a larger contribution.

Her gift to the UNM Comprehensive Cancer Center Patient Care Fund will support patients who need extra assistance with lodging, transportation, or other support services during their treatment. The Cancer Center’s fourth-floor reception area has been named in memory of Larry.

He would have approved, says Marcia. “He wanted other people to avail themselves to this facility.”

A graduate of Marquette University Dental School, Larry practiced dentistry in Albuquerque for nearly 50 years. He was an enthusiastic volunteer and fundraiser and served on the boards of the YMCA, the Albuquerque Jewish Community Center and the New Mexico Philharmonic, to name a few.

Larry was most proud of launching and chairing the first New Mexico Mission of Mercy (NM MOM) dental clinic in 2010. NM MOM, which continues to this day, is a two-day dental clinic that offers free dental care to New Mexicans who cannot access or afford it.

“He always tried to help people,” Marcia says.

Many years ago, Larry was diagnosed with melanoma and had a lesion on his arm removed. After five years, Larry was told he was cancer-free.

“Well, he wasn’t,” says Marcia, “but he didn’t know it, so he went merrily on thinking he was. Seventeen years after he was first diagnosed, we found out by accident the cancer had recurred. But this time it was stage 4, all over his body.

“He was told by one doctor that he would be dead in eight to 10 months,” she continues. “But he had things to do. For one, he wanted to start another Mission of Mercy.”

At around the same time, the Lubars heard about former President Jimmy Carter having success with immunotherapy treatments for his melanoma, which had spread to his liver and brain. Immunotherapy, a treatment that uses a patient’s own immune system to find and destroy cancer cells, can help some patients live longer. Marcia and Larry were excited, and Marcia knew just who to contact.

After receiving her undergraduate degree from UNM in the late 1970s, Marcia worked at the New Mexico Tumor Registry. In December 2015, nearly 40 years later, she called the Registry’s director, who was a friend of hers. Her friend told her that the Comprehensive Cancer Center was offering immunotherapy treatments.

“Two days later, my husband was at the Cancer Center starting treatment,” Marcia says.

Larry received immunotherapy treatments every two weeks for about a year. Both he and Marcia were struck not only by the quality of the health care, but also the high level of dedication shown by the physicians, nurses, technicians and other staff.

“The treatment and care Larry received was superior,” Marcia says. “He lived another five years. The first year was difficult, but after that, we looked at his bucket list. He wanted to go to the Panama Canal, and we did it.”


As a result of his immunotherapy treatments, Larry felt well enough to go to concerts, enjoy his four grandchildren and go on the occasional trip. It wasn’t easy, and the final six months of his life were awful, Marcia says. But throughout it all, his health care providers were wonderfully caring, attentive and available – something that still amazes Marcia.

“I know how hard it is to connect with a doctor,” she says. “Every single one of his doctors gave us their cellphone numbers. Once, we were in Puerto Vallarta and Larry passed out. I called Larry’s doctor at 8 at night, and he told me exactly what to do. I was so grateful.”

Marcia’s gift is a fitting reminder of the many ways her husband worked to help others. She also hopes it will inspire others to give to UNM Comprehensive Cancer Center.

“We are incredibly lucky to have our own NCI designated comprehensive cancer center in our state,” she says.

UNM Comprehensive Cancer Center

The University of New Mexico Comprehensive Cancer Center is the Official Cancer Center of New Mexico and the only National Cancer Institute-designated Cancer Center in a 500-mile radius.

Its more than 120 board-certified oncology specialty physicians include cancer surgeons in every specialty (abdominal, thoracic, bone and soft tissue, neurosurgery, genitourinary, gynecology, and head and neck cancers), adult and pediatric hematologists/medical oncologists, gynecologic oncologists, and radiation oncologists. They, along with more than 600 other cancer healthcare professionals (nurses, pharmacists, nutritionists, navigators, psychologists and social workers), provide treatment to 65% of New Mexico's cancer patients from all across the state and partner with community health systems statewide to provide cancer care closer to home. They treated approximately 14,000 patients in about 100,000 ambulatory clinic visits in addition to in-patient hospitalizations at UNM Hospital.

A total of nearly 400 patients participated in cancer clinical trials testing new cancer treatments that include tests of novel cancer prevention strategies and cancer genome sequencing.

The more than 100 cancer research scientists affiliated with the UNMCCC were awarded $35.7 million in federal and private grants and contracts for cancer research projects. Since 2015, they have published nearly 1000 manuscripts, and promoting economic development, they filed 136 new patents and launched 10 new biotechnology start-up companies.

Finally, the physicians, scientists and staff have provided education and training experiences to more than 500 high school, undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral fellowship students in cancer research and cancer health care delivery.

Categories: Comprehensive Cancer Center