Jul 18, 2022 5:00 PM

Read Time: 3 minutes

Author: Heather Simonsen

Aik Choon Tan, PhD
Aik Choon Tan, PhD

Aik Choon Tan, PhD, has been appointed senior director of data science at Huntsman Cancer Institute, professor at the University of Utah (U of U) department of Oncological Sciences, member of the Scientific Computing and Imaging Institute, and Jon M. and Karen Huntsman Endowed Chair in Cancer Data Science. He will also serve as a member of the research executive committee and research leadership council within the Comprehensive Cancer Center at Huntsman Cancer Institute. Tan will begin Oct 1, 2022.

A cancer translational bioinformatics and cancer systems biology researcher, Tan’s research focuses computational and statistical learning methods in overcoming treatment resistant barriers in cancer. He is most interested in research that goes from the lab to bedside, providing data-driven precision oncology for patients. With grants from the National Institutes of Health, and Florida Biomedical Research Program, Tan has focused his research on understanding tumor microenvironment such that effective drug combinations could be delivered to patients based on their individual genomic profiles. He has published more than 200 articles.

“Dr. Tan will bring tremendous data science and leadership expertise to this new role, as well as a strong talent for building connections and envisioning impactful applications of data science”, says Neli Ulrich, PhD, executive director of the Comprehensive Cancer Center at Huntsman Cancer Institute and professor of population health sciences at the U of U. “We are delighted that he will join the Huntsman Cancer Institute and the U of U and I have no doubt that he will advance our cancer-free frontier through innovation and collaboration.”

Manish Parashar, PhD, director of the U of U Scientific Computing and Imaging Institute says, “Data science has been identified as a key area of our strategic growth. Dr. Tan brings extensive experiences and expertise and will have a tremendous impact on our innovative new cluster in computational oncology, which encompasses multiple faculty recruits.”

Tan previously served as vice chair of the Department Biostatistics and Bioinformatics at Moffitt Cancer in Tampa, Florida.

“I feel honored and humbled to be joining an exceptional cancer center to implement cancer data science ideas and put them into real practice,” Tan says. “I look forward to working with the existing teams to leverage their expertise and recruit new faculty in conjunction with other departments and institutions on campus to advance computational oncology research in Utah. I hope we can move some of these discoveries to develop new, more effective ways to prevent cancer and treat patients.”

Tan says the inspiration for his work comes from a four-year-old girl he met 17 years ago who was dying of cancer. His pastor had asked him to translate so he could communicate with her family. Tan wished there was more he could do to help this child, who touched his heart. “There’s a disconnect between basic researchers or computational researchers. I want to work as the “connector” to provide seamless integration of computational and statistical methods in experimental and clinical research so we can help more patients like her.”

Tan received his Bachelor of Engineering from the University of Technology Malaysia, and earned his PhD from the University of Glasgow in computer science and bioinformatics. He received post-doctoral fellowships at Johns Hopkins University Whiting School of Engineering and School of Medicine.

Tan is the first to hold this new leadership position.

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Heather Simonsen
Public Relations – Huntsman Cancer Institute
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About Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah

Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah is the official cancer center of Utah and the only National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center in the Mountain West. The campus includes a state-of-the-art cancer specialty hospital and two buildings dedicated to cancer research. Huntsman Cancer Institute provides patient care, cancer screening, and education at community clinics and affiliate hospitals throughout the Mountain West. It is consistently recognized among the best cancer hospitals in the country by U.S. News and World Report. The region’s first proton therapy center opened in 2021 and a major hospital expansion is underway. Huntsman Cancer Institute is committed to creating a diverse and inclusive environment for staff, students, patients, and communities. Advancing cancer research discoveries and treatments to meet the needs of patients who live far away from a major medical center is a unique focus. More genes for inherited cancers have been discovered at Huntsman Cancer Institute than at any other cancer center, including genes responsible for breast, ovarian, colon, head and neck cancers, and melanoma. Huntsman Cancer Institute was founded by Jon M. and Karen Huntsman.

Cancer touches all of us.

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