SALT LAKE CITY — Jon M. and Karen Huntsman gave $41 million in their fight against cancer on Thursday.
The latest donation to the Huntsman Cancer Institute comes on top of $300 million the couple has given to the institute since its founding in 1995.
"Except for my family and faith, there is no cause more important to me than fighting cancer," Huntsman said in a statement Thursday. "I have committed the rest of my life to doing all I can to support clinical and research efforts to eliminate this disease."
It's a message that fills 26-year-old Daniel Hedlund with hope. He's undergoing treatment of osteosarcoma at the institute. This is the cancer's second return since his diagnosis three years ago.
"I think of all the good that money will do. Holy cow, how many more people can be treated? How many more research trials can be run because of this one man?" he said.
Hedlund was diagnosed three weeks after his marriage to his wife Melanie. All told, he's spent 103 nights in the cancer hospital. "My wife's been at my side for every one of them."
The beauty of the Huntsman Cancer Institute, he said, is that it provides the latest advances in cancer treatment in an environment that nurtures the body and spirit.
After Hedlund's diagnosis at age 23, he went to the Huntsman Cancer Institute for a second opinion. "As soon as we were there, we knew it was where I needed to be," he said.
The institute has a unit that specializes in the treatment of sarcoma, which is a cancer of the bone and soft tissue.
It also has beautifully appointed patient rooms and provides meals in a room service type arrangement. "When you're taking chemo, your stomach is fickle. Something that sounds good might not sound good in 10 minutes. Jon Huntsman understands that. He caters to that aspect of cancer."
Much of the money the Huntsmans have contributed to fighting cancer has been invested in the cancer institute and hospital. But the family has also committed resources to hire — and retain — some of the nation's top researchers and clinicians. Considerable resources have also been devoted to genetic research programs as well as educational and wellness programs for patients.
The HCI has been designated as a National Cancer Institute, meaning it meets the highest standards for cancer care and research. It is also a member of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, a nonprofit alliance of the world's leading cancer centers.
Hedlund counts Huntsman, a cancer survivor himself, as a hero.
Hedlund recently underwent another round of chemotherapy. He said he knows his odds of survival fall each time the cancer reoccurs but he's undaunted by statistics.
"Statistics don't take into account my determination. They don't take into account my faith. They don't take into account my will to live. That's a completely different story," he said.
When giving the inaugural gift of $10 million to form the cancer institute back in 1993, Huntsman said, "We view this gift as but a down payment to the end objective of whipping this dreaded disease."
Huntsman has made good on that promise, something that buoys Hedlund's optimism for the future.
"It gives me hope. It increases the odds they'll find a cure one day," he said. "Even if they don't find a cure, it increases the quality of care I receive right now."
Huntsman Cancer Institute Milestones
1993: Jon M. and Karen Huntsman donate $10 million to the University of Utah to establish a cancer institute.
1994: HCI receives custodianship of the Utah Population Database, a resource for biomedical researchers that contains health and vital statistics records from several generations of Utah families.
A High Risk Breast Cancer Clinic is established to conduct research into genetic causes of breast cancer.
1995: The Huntsman family pledges $100 million to construct a state-of-the-art cancer center.
1996: HCI breaks ground for a new 231,118-square-foot research, treatment, and education facility.
1997: HCI joins the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, a not-for-profit alliance of the world's leading cancer centers.
Familial Colon Cancer Clinic established to research genetic causes and inheritance patterns of colon cancer.
1999: HCI building is dedicated; Patient Care Center opens.
2000: Jon M. Huntsman pledges $125 million to fund cancer research and construct the Huntsman Cancer Hospital.
2001: Special Populations Outreach to minority communities established.
Familial Melanoma Research Clinic established to conduct research into genetic causes and inheritance patterns of skin cancer.
2002: Sarcoma Array Research Consortium established to study molecular genetics of rare soft tissue and bone tumors.
Familial Pancreatic Cancer Registry opens, aiming to discover a genetic cause of pancreatic cancer.
2003: National Cancer Institute awards HCI $12.5 million grant to identify colon cancer genes.
2004: Huntsman Cancer Hospital opens, featuring first full-field digital mammography unit, first PET/CT imaging unit, and first facial prosthetics lab in the Intermountain West.
2005: HCI and Intermountain Healthcare join forces to create the Huntsman-Intermountain Cancer Care Program, opening research opportunities to advance cancer care.
2006: Cancer Clinical Research Database established.
2007: Cancer Center member Mario Capecchi, PhD., wins Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine for gene targeting research.
Utah Blood and Marrow Transplant and Myeloma Program opens, combining clinical research with patient care to offer a unique and promising approach to the treatment of multiple myeloma.
2008: Major hospital expansion begins.
HCI and Intermountain Healthcare Cancer Services announce research alliance that links records found in the Utah Population Database to IHC medical records.
2009: Jon M. and Karen Huntsman establish five Presidential Professorships in Cancer Research to commemorate HCI's 10th anniversary.
2010: The National Cancer Institute renews HCI's designation as a Cancer Center; the only such designation in the Intermountain West.
HCI is awarded $12.2 million to identify and test new ways to prevent, detect and treat colon cancer.
2011: Pediatric Late Effects Clinic established, the first in the Intermountain West to treat adult survivors of childhood cancer.
Huntsman Cancer Hospital Expansion opens.
Source: Huntsman Cancer Institute