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Huntsman Cancer Institute earns elite status

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Posted at 9:37 PM, Jul 09, 2015
and last updated 2015-07-09 23:37:50-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- Millions of research dollars will be pouring into the Huntsman Cancer Institute soon after they received a prestigious recognition.

The National Cancer Institute designated the facility a Comprehensive Cancer Center Thursday, and the designation is the highest recognition possible.

“That recognition, I think, will help us to recruit top talent here. It provides millions of dollars over the next 5 years to support our research programs,” said Dr. Mary Beckerle, CEO of the center.

There are currently 41 hospitals in the country with the same designation; however, the Huntsman Cancer Institute is the only one in the Intermountain West with such a title.

In October, a panel of judges from NCI visited Utah to review their work and facilities. It was not until Thursday that the Beckerle learned they had achieved the new status.

“We had to submit a 5-pound document with nearly 1,400 pages of documentation of all of our research programs and accomplishments,” Beckerle explained. “It means we have depth and breadth in cancer research across laboratory science, clinical science and population science.”

NCI will reevaluate the center every five years to renew its status. According to data from the facility, since its previous status as a cancer center was renewed in 2009, the center has recruited 33 new program members and earned a 20 percent increase in funding.

“It’s affirmation that this research is cutting edge,” HCI employee Lisa Anderson said.

Anderson was diagnosed with thyroid cancer about five years ago, while she was working in the center’s communications department.

“The trans-disciplinary research that we do here is so important,” Anderson said. “Taking the work from these labs that are right here, connected to the hospital, you know, and making a real difference in patients’ lives.”

It’s a difference Beckerle believes will only be more significant in the future.

“They are investing in us so that we can continue to move forward and advance cancer research to improve cancer outcomes for our patients,” she said.