On February 26, Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) hosted U.S. Vice President Joe Biden as part of the White House's "Moonshot" initiative to double the rate of progress toward curing cancer. During his visit, the Vice President toured the facility, took an inside look at the Utah Population Database (UPDB), and participated in a roundtable discussion that included Huntsman Cancer Foundation board chairman Jon Huntsman Jr., HCI's CEO and Director Mary Beckerle, Ph.D., and Senator Orrin Hatch. Local cancer survivors and physicians, researchers, and experts in the field also participated.
Vice President Biden's son Beau lost his life to brain cancer last year. The Vice President has since adopted the cause of curing cancer as his personal mission. The HCI visit was a stop on Biden's "listening tour," to encourage collaboration in the quest for cancer cures.
The Vice President identified HCI as a key player in the quest to find a cure for cancer and pointed to the UPDB as the only resource of its kind in the United States. It contains diagnostic records about cancer, cause of death, and birth records, along with demographic and genealogical information for more than 8 million individuals. This information supports research on genetics, epidemiology, demography, and public health.
Vice President Biden also mentioned the power of community collaboration and the dedication of everyone who works at HCI, saying "In the last five to six years, we've seen incredible breakthroughs in science, because of the brilliant men and women sitting around this table."
"Government should give help when it's needed, but I'm relying on the expertise of researchers at HCI and similar institutions across the country to share their resources," Biden added.
Dr. Beckerle agreed. "We have a really important role in the national cancer fight. We're going to work with the Vice President to make sure the UPDB is as available as possible, so scientists, clinicians, and researchers can use it to save lives," she said.
Cures for cancer won't happen before Biden's term ends, but he says with the help of genetic research and big data-like that in the UPDB-finding cures is possible. He added, "Whether we can get there in 10 or 50 years depends on how quickly we put all these pieces together."
For more information on the Moonshot initiative and the UPDB, visit www.huntsmancancer.org
Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) is a National Cancer Institute (NCI)-Designated Comprehensive Cancer Center, which means it meets the highest standards for cancer research and receives support for its scientific endeavors. HCI is located on the campus of the University of Utah in Salt Lake City and is a part of the University of Utah Health Care system. HCI treats patients with all forms of cancer and operates several high-risk clinics that focus on melanoma and breast, colon, and pancreas cancers, among others. HCI also provides academic and clinical training for future physicians and researchers. For more information about HCI, please visit www.huntsmancancer.org.