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Ground Broken on New Children's Cancer Research Facility

Terry Gildea/KUER

Dignitaries and religious leaders gathered at the Huntsman Cancer Institute today to break ground on a new research center that will be dedicated to fighting cancers that affect children.  

The new Primary Children’s and Families' Cancer Research Center will be a 220 thousand square foot expansion of the Huntsman Cancer Institute and double the center’s research capacity.  Mary Beckerle is the Director of HCI.  She says the new research center will make significant strides in battling a number of different children’s cancers.

“This work is truly only possible here in Utah. It is work that can be done here and it is work that will have global impact,” says Mary Beckerle.

The majority of the 105 million dollar expansion will be financed by the Huntsman Cancer Foundation, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Intermountain Healthcare and the state of Utah. Former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman Jr. hopes the new facility will lead the world in battling the cancers that affect youth.

“Childhood cancers have a substantial heritable component and what we learn here will inform our future about how cancer is detected and treated with implications for saving lives around the world,” says Jon Huntsman Jr.

Jon Huntsman Sr. has been the driving force behind the Huntsman Cancer Institute since he created it in 1999. A cancer survivor himself, he shared an emotional story about a girl he befriended named Becky Bair. She wanted to go to Disneyworld so Mr. Huntsman arranged the trip. He talked about how their friendship helped him cope with his own cancer.

“A few months later when I spent 11 days in the hospital with the first of my four cancers, Little Becky came to visit me… brought me great inspiration. And a few years later she passed away from children’s cancer. I think I see her in the back of this gathering saying ride on. Keep going. We need you.”

Many lawmakers and religious leaders were present at the groundbreaking, including Governor Gary Herbert, Senator Orrin Hatch, Bishop John Wester of the Salt Lake Catholic Diocese and Elder M. Russell Ballard from the LDS Church.  The new facility is expected to be completed in 2017.

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