Apr 01, 2021 10:00 AM

Read Time: 2 minutes

neli ulrich stands at the front of the HCI auditorium

Since 1999, Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) has served as a beacon of hope for those facing the uncertainty of a cancer diagnosis for more than 20 years. What started as a lone building on a barren mountainside has now developed into a robust cancer campus with state-of-the-art research and clinical care facilities. HCI’s clinical care teams, research faculty, staff, and trainees work every day to achieve our ultimate goal of making a cancer free frontier possible.

The dedicated work conducted every day at HCI is showcased every five to seven years during the renewal process for our Cancer Center Support Grant (CCSG), consisting of an approximately 1,600-page grant application and a formal site visit by a panel of expert reviewers. In 2014, HCI achieved Comprehensive Cancer Center status—the highest designation given by the National Cancer Institute—with an impact score of 19. In 2019, we maintained that status and improved our impact score to 16 (the lower, the better). This is the best score in HCI’s history. 

The year 2020 brought many challenges for everyone, including the researchers and clinical teams at HCI. When the coronavirus pandemic reached Utah early on in the year, our teams had to move quickly to adjust to remote work, added safety precautions, and restrictions on in-person research and clinical activities. Despite these challenges, HCI proved to be resilient. 

Our postdocs, trainees, research staff, and coordinators changed their approaches to move toward a cancer-free frontier through many new procedures. HCI’s Shared Resources continued to serve, whether inside the building or virtually. We launched new initiatives, including surveys of effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on our patients’ lives and care. Our investigators got to work writing grants, and, together with HCI research administration teams, submitted an impressive 261 grants—the highest number ever in a year.

Our Clinical Trials Office (CTO) worked tirelessly to keep trials open and available to patients. Despite the pandemic, in 2020 the CTO team was able to obtain consent from 900 patients and ultimately accrue 578 patients. This work, coupled with the care of our amazing clinicians, allowed approximately 1,800 patients to receive care on treatment trials in 2020. 

Overall, these achievements during the pandemic demonstrate the deep dedication of HCI’s research community to our mission. A pandemic year cannot slow us down—and we are poised to head into a bright future together!

Neli Ulrich, MS, PhD
Executive Director
Comprehensive Cancer Center
Huntsman Cancer Institute

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