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Huntsman Cancer Institute unveils new Primary Children's and Families' Cancer Research Center.

The University of Utah Huntsman Cancer Institute officially opened its Primary Children’s and Families’ Cancer Research Center, a world-class facility dedicated to advancing research in cancer.

The 225,000 square-foot expansion doubles HCI’s research capacity. Research enhancements include a biotechnology center, complete with the latest advanced genetic sequencing and imaging equipment. Scientists and researchers at the center will leverage the additional space and technology to study the leading disease killer of children, to trace familial cancers, to accelerate the development of new treatments and cancer prevention strategies and to enhance training programs for the next generation of cancer researchers.

“This new research space is essential to HCI’s mission to relieve the suffering of cancer patients by better understanding cancer, and applying that understanding to the development of new ways to treat and prevent cancer,” said Mary Beckerle, CEO and director of HCI

The Primary Children’s and Families’ Cancer Research Center will house many unique resources and technologies available to its faculty, including cancer biostatistics, genetic counseling, genomics and bioinformatics analysis, research informatics and the Utah Population Database. With the addition, HCI will have one mile of laboratory bench space. The new building has been designed to promote collaboration among the research teams, including a 120-seat auditorium, 30,000-square feet of contiguous space unifying the cancer population sciences research faculty and public meetings spaces on each floor. The space is expected to house up to 40 new university faculty members and cancer research teams in the coming years.

Support for the $173 million project (inclusive of financing costs) was provided by HCI founders the Jon M. and Karen Huntsman family, Huntsman Cancer Foundation, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Intermountain Healthcare, the state of Utah and many individual donations from across the country . At the event, Jon Huntsman Sr. announced a new commitment from his family and the Huntsman Cancer Foundation of $120 million to institute.

Below are stories of cancer patients whose lives have been changed through advancements in cancer research:

Michael Taylor

Cancer treatment is not what Michael Taylor planned the year after he graduated from high school. Last summer, he was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare cancer of bone and soft tissues that typically occurs in children and young adults. Taylor, a patient at Primary Children’s Hospital, underwent 30 days of radiation therapy at HCI as part of his treatment plan, which ended a few weeks ago.

“I’m hoping that having cancer will soon be just a memory – a part of my past that I can put behind me,” says Michael who recently turned 18.

Rebecca Ward

Most people don’t think of reoutine dental cleaning as a life-saver, but Rebecca Ward does. Rebecca’s hygienist saw a suspicious sore on Rebecca’s tongue. It turned out to be oral cancer, even though Rebecca has never used tobacco or alcohol—two major favors that increase the risk for this disease. The Head and Neck Cancers team at Huntsman Cancer Institute removed the turmor and reconstructed Rebecca’s tongue with skin and fat from her arm.

An oral cancer like Rebecca’s can have devastating effects on the swallowing and speech if not treated promptly. But fortunately, Rebecca’s surgery was a success and she can still speak. Now she uses her voice to warn others about cancer prevention and regular oral screenings.

John Maack

John Maack was an avid trail runner who decided his lymphoma diagnosis could not define him or keep him from doing what he loved. So he kept moving.

Through months of chemotherapy, he walked miles every day in the hospital and ran several times a week at home. After he received a stem cell transplant at HCI, a procedure that leaves most patients weak for months, John still rode an exercise bike and walked every day after the surgery.

After his hospital stay, he trained with the exercise specialists at the Wellness and Integrative Health Center at HCI to get back in shape. A year to the day after he checked into the hospital for the transplant, John completed his sixth 100-mile ultra-marathon, the Wasatch 100. John is still running, often with the Huntsman Heroes to raise funds for cancer research.