Huntsman Cancer Institute
University of Utah Salt Lake City, Utah
The mission of Huntsman Cancer Institute, located at the University of Utah, is to understand cancer from its beginnings, to use that knowledge in the creation and improvement of new treatments, to relieve the suffering of cancer patients, and to provide education about cancer risk, prevention, and care. HCI’s roots lie in the Utah Regional Cancer Center, which received NCI designation in 1986. Following a $100MM donation from Jon M. Huntsman, Sr., a Utah industrialist, the Center was renamed Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) in 1995. In 1999, HCI moved to its permanent home, where research and patient care were united under a single roof.
HCI draws 138 researchers from across the University community. HCI’s research portfolio is organized in four collaborative programs spanning laboratory, translational, clinical, and population science. Two programs focus on laboratory research: Nuclear Control of Cell Growth and Differentiation and Cell Response and Regulation. The Experimental Therapeutics Program seeks to develop new drugs and therapies and to translate HCI basic science findings to benefit patients. The Cancer Control and Population Sciences Program pursues the discovery of risk-susceptibility genes that contribute to cancer and studies cancer prevention and treatment methods relevant to our catchment area and beyond. In addition, researchers at HCI collaborate in disease-oriented research teams that focus on specific cancer types, including gastrointestinal, genitourinary, hematologic, neuro-oncologic, and women’s cancers, as well as groups focused on melanoma and sarcoma.
HCI is steward of the Utah Population Database, one of the most comprehensive biomedical and genealogical databases in the world. UPDB allows scientists to analyze inheritance patterns of cancers in multiple generations of large families. Utilizing UPDB, HCI researchers have identified numerous genes that, when mutated, lead to a greater risk of certain cancers, including BRCA1/2 (breast), APC (colon), p16 (melanoma), NF-1 (neurofibromatosis), and SDH5 (paraganglioma). To extend the power of the database and to reach cancer patients statewide for inclusion in clinical trials, HCI developed an alliance with Intermountain Healthcare, the Huntsman Intermountain Cancer Care Program (HICCP). Through this alliance, data is shared for research and statewide clinical trials are enabled. HICCP, in combination with UPDB, presents a unique opportunity for population-based biomedical studies. HICCP has credentialed physicians statewide and has endorsed eight cancer clinics for patient care and education that broadly serve Utah. Through HICCP, HCI reaches Utah’s 80,000 square miles, including historically underserved populations, such as rural residents and Native American tribal members.
HCI supports High Risk Cancer Research Clinics and Registries that enroll individuals and families with risk of inherited cancer in research cohorts. In addition to enabling research, the clinics provide education and screening for patients and their families. These clinics focus on breast, gastrointestinal, melanoma, pancreas, and other cancers and have enrolled thousands of individuals.
HCI is particularly focused on genetics and cancer, on understanding cancer at the molecular and cellular level, and on creating safer and more effective treatments. In addition, HCI is committed to training new cancer researchers in classroom, laboratory, and clinical settings through a wide variety of undergraduate, pre- and post-doctoral opportunities. Educational programs encompass basic science discovery, clinical investigation, and population-based studies and are aligned with the University’s Department of Oncological Sciences.
* This profile was provided by the Huntsman Cancer Institute.