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Jon Huntsman Sr. helps wage global war on cancer

Published: Thursday, March 4 2010 12:55 p.m. MST

Jon Huntsman Sr.

Jason Olson, Deseret News

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SALT

LAKE CITY — Using diplomacy that focuses on curing cancer, Jon Huntsman

Sr. has laid the groundwork to help build a network of cancer hospitals

in several countries, including nations in the Middle East.

He

told the Deseret News on Wednesday that he's been approached multiple

times in recent years by government and medical officials at home and

abroad who want to use the genetic research now under way at Utah's

Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) as the basis for establishing a

specialty cancer hospital in their areas. He said he has no estimate

for when these hospitals might be built.

Researchers

and leaders in Dubai, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore and China have all

expressed interest, as have researchers from several areas in the U.S.,

he said.

\"They don't have $50

million per year for research ... which is a black pit of (financial

losses), but it's absolutely essential in the medical world to make

progress. Without it, you can't move forward.\"

In

response to the queries, Huntsman officials developed a blueprint for

expanding the Huntsman Cancer Hospital at the University of Utah into a

network of similar hospitals in various parts of the world where

universities, municipalities or governments are willing to build the

facilities.

\"We will provide the

architectural plans and layouts, train their doctors with personnel

from the institute and require them to meet specific standards of care

in order to bear our name,\" he said.

Each

facility would be owned independently but would utilize HCI's

consulting and research for a $5 million annual fee, which would be

funneled back into HCI to fund ongoing research, Huntsman said. A

handful of sites are now negotiating with HCI to build such a facility,

he said. He declined to name them, noting that local officials in those

areas would make the announcements when the time is right.

Because

the vast majority of cancers can be treated on an outpatient basis

through chemotherapy and radiation, the hospitals would be

self-sustaining financially and have full access to cutting-edge

research in order to continually update treatment protocols, he said.

The

concept has already been implemented locally by Intermountain

Healthcare, which has established specialty cancer wings at several of

its Utah hospitals in cooperation with HCI and the Huntsman Cancer

Center at IHC's flagship campus in Murray.

Word

that Huntsman is working to establish the network outside Utah came

during a conference at HCI on Wednesday, dubbed \"Global Perspectives on

Cancer,\" which included several researchers from the Middle East.

\"Cancer

is now the fastest growing killer in the region,\" said Bahman Baktiari,

director of the Middle East Center at the U. \"Previously, diplomacy had

been focused on political, military and commercial affairs, and global

health had been more narrowly included in a development perspective.\"

\"Today,

the two areas have broadened to recognize the greater expanse of health

issues in foreign policy and national security,\" Baktiari said.

Huntsman

said he has spent a lot of time with leaders in the Middle East, whose

oil-based financial resources could provide the funding for a cancer

hospital in cooperation with HCI. \"They're now in the process of

building some of the world's most modern and updated medical

facilities. They can afford the type of medical care that other

countries in Asia and parts of Eastern Europe simply couldn't afford.\"

Huntsman

firmly believes the partnerships that result from the network \"to save

or extend the quality and length of people's lives is the greatest form

of diplomacy that Americans can offer. It's substantially ahead of just

providing money for countries to spend, or even worse to have it wasted

on corruption. Every dollar here will be accounted for and they'll be

able to overcome this disease that's overtaken the earth.\"

The

initiative will also help fund research at HCI in perpetuity, he said,

noting the continuing need to raise $50 million in research funding

each year has become his \"full-time job\" for the past 11 years.

\"It's

been very difficult,\" both physically and emotionally, he said.

\"Through recessions and difficult times we've had to take out huge

long-term loans to help finance what's going on. We knew when we came

to Utah that it would be a long, hard struggle as opposed to locating

it at Duke or USC,\" which could have provided matching funds, \"but we

chose to come to Utah because of the great genetic database,\" and

because \"there was no cancer research center in the Intermountain West.\"

Half

of men and a third of women worldwide will have one of 200 types of

cancer in their lifetime, he said. \"If we ever reach the point where we

could eradicate cancer like they eliminated polio, that's our goal.\"


E-mail: carrie@desnews.com

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