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Randall Burt

Randy Burt

Randall W. Burt, MD

Cancer Center Bio

Selected Achievements

Outstanding Teaching Award, Department of Internal Medicine, University of Utah (1993)

D. Keith Barnes, MD, and Ida May "Dotty" Barnes, RN, Presidential Endowed Chair in Medicine (1999)

Governor's Medal for Science and Technology (2002)

Collaborative Group of the Americas Lifetime Achievement Award (2008)


“Who knew how interesting genetics and inherited colon cancer syndromes would be?” says Randall Burt, MD, co-leader of the Burt-Neklason lab. “When I entered academic medicine, we knew these syndromes were familial, at least some of them, and had a general understanding, but now we know precisely the genetic cause of all the inherited syndromes of colon cancer. We do genetic testing to define who in a family has the condition, and we have precise protocols worked out to prevent cancer and can almost always prevent it in these conditions.”

Dr. Burt’s career-long series of innovative discoveries played a major role in establishing the paradigm in which colorectal cancer research is now viewed. His work defined genes responsible for colorectal cancer and showed that inherited risk for this cancer is common. He spearheaded the development and improvement of high-risk cancer screening and prevention guidelines used throughout the world. Over the years, he has built interdisciplinary teams including molecular biologists, genealogical researchers, behavioral scientists, and human geneticists to solve questions regarding the genetics of colorectal cancer. He and his research serve as a model of how clinical investigators can contribute to the basic understanding and improved prevention and treatment of human disease.

Now the genes that need to be identified are those that cause less penetrant excess family clustering of colon cancer cases. They appear to be involved with inheritance, but it’s a weaker form than in the familial syndromes.

“We have the unique resource of the Utah Population Database (UPDB), which puts us ahead of everybody else in the ability to find these more moderately penetrant genes of inherited predisposition,” says Dr. Burt. With more than 20 million records in which an extensive set of Utah genealogies is linked to large sets of medical records (including cancer records) and other types of data, the UPDB can provide the very good description of very large families that will be needed to identify these genes.

The Burt-Neklason lab will continue work in discovering genes for inherited susceptibility and determining the mechanisms of the susceptibilities. The lab will also work toward optimal prevention strategies for the less penetrant inherited predispositions, including chemoprevention—where particular medications are used to prevent polyps and cancer from occurring in these syndrome and predispositions.

“I feel incredibly fortunate to be involved in an area that has developed and progressed more than any other during my career lifetime,” says Dr. Burt.