‘A million square feet of pure hope’: Huntsman Cancer Institute opens new expansion

SALT LAKE CITY -- Utah's new Primary Children's and Families' Cancer Research Center is open.

Twenty-five years after Jon Huntsman Senior was diagnosed with cancer and then had a vision of cancer research facilities along the east bench of the Wasatch Front, another part of his vision is complete.

On Wednesday, the Huntsman Cancer Institute and The University of Utah held the grand opening for the new Primary Children's and Families' Cancer Research Center.

Jon Huntsman Jr. made the opening remarks. He explained what this milestone means to his family, and also acknowledged his father's 80th birthday was also that same day. He also mentioned the other existing cancer research buildings as part of his father's vision.

"A million square feet of pure hope; 2,100 excellent jobs supported by the effort here; $752 million in business activity that I know the governor, the speaker, and the president are deeply interested in; and a mile-long worth of research lab bench capacity," said Huntsman, the former Utah Governor.

Huntsman Sr. became emotional as he spoke about his vision 25 years ago.

"Our job is to eradicate cancer from the face of the earth," he said. "Eradicate it forever. Not to play around with it; not to play politics with it; not to play egos with it, but eradicate it, to eliminate it at all costs."

Part of the new center includes multiple partnerships with the state, and the LDS Church's genealogy services. They will be using the Utah Population Database, which gives the center 17 million names to help families understand their family health history and detect cancer earlier.

"You see with children's cancer, it's different than adult cancers," said Huntsman Senior. "Children's cancer has a higher proclivity to give this disease, to pass it on to their brothers and sisters."

With so much advancement in recent cancer research, 80 percent of child cancer patients diagnosed will survive, that's according to HCI. Now they will focus on the remaining 20 percent.

"In spite of the tremendous progress we are making in cancer research, it's estimated in the last couple of decades two million lives have been saved thanks to cancer research," said Dr. Mary Beckerle, Executive Director at HCI. "But we are not done yet. We still lose, in the United States, one person every minute of every day to cancer. And research is the hope for the future."