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Researchers honored for outstanding contributions to cancer care

Researchers honored for outstanding contributions to cancer care
2024-05-29
(Press-News.org)

Three Huntsman Cancer Institute researchers have recently been recognized for their work as outstanding faculty members at the University of Utah (the U).

Kim Kaphingst, ScD, director of cancer communication research at Huntsman Cancer Institute and professor of communication at the U, and June Round, PhD, investigator at Huntsman Cancer Institute and professor of microbiology and immunology at the U, were both granted the 2024 Distinguished Research Award. The faculty prize is given annually to scholars who exemplify exceptional research. 

Kaphingst’s group explores cancer communication, particularly how to educate patients and families who may have inherited cancer syndromes. Kaphingst and her colleagues also look for strategies that will recruit a wider pool of patients into clinical trials.

“Huntsman Cancer Institute is a unique institution where a communications professor can conduct research on genetic testing services and other health services, integrating multiple disciplines. This award really shows how successful our work has been here,” says Kaphingst. “It is an honor to receive the Distinguished Research Award. My hope is that our investigations expand the reach of cancer genetic information to all in the area we serve.” 

Round and her team study how microbiota—bacteria, fungi, and viruses that live on and in the human body—impact cancer outcomes. Round, an immunologist, is interested in the presence of gut microbes that may prevent colon and pancreatic cancers. 

“We believe that people who develop cancer are lacking a lot of beneficial organisms. Whereas people who don't get cancer have organisms that are promoting a healthy immune response. The question is: can we find those organisms and give them to people who have the disease?” says Round. “I think the Distinguished Research Award validates that this work is important.” 

The Distinguished Research Award is bestowed by the Office of the Vice President for Research. A committee reviews nominations before deciding on three winners, who each receive a $10,000 grant. Gabriel Bowen, PhD, professor of geology at the U, is the third awardee.

“We received more nominees for the Distinguished Research Award this year than ever before,” says Jakob D. Jensen, PhD, a member of the Cancer Control and Population Sciences Program at Huntsman Cancer Institute and associate vice president for research at the U. “We are proud to honor three outstanding faculty from diverse disciplines who are making an impact in Utah and beyond.”

Neli Ulrich, PhD, MS, chief scientific officer and executive director of the Comprehensive Cancer Center at Huntsman Cancer Institute and professor of population health sciences at the U, was also named a Distinguished Professor at the U. 

Distinguished Professor is a special honored rank for tenured faculty. Professors given the title are lauded for both their high level of research and dedication to teaching. Ulrich is an internationally renowned epidemiologist, widely recognized for her work in colorectal cancer causes and survivorship.

“I am immensely grateful to my colleagues at the U for this honor,” says Ulrich. “This award recognizes the decades-long work of my research team, with colleagues from surgery, oncology, epidemiology, basic sciences, and other disciplines. I’m also thrilled to see Huntsman Cancer Institute investigators Kaphingst and Round praised for their extraordinary accomplishments. Their revolutionary research in cancer care and prevention epitomizes the work we do at Huntsman Cancer Institute, and I look forward to the future impact of their work.” 

About Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah

Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah (the U) is the National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center for Utah, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, and Wyoming. With a legacy of innovative cancer research, groundbreaking discoveries, and world-class patient care, we are transforming the way cancer is understood, prevented, diagnosed, treated, and survived. Huntsman Cancer Institute focuses on delivering a cancer-free frontier to all communities in the area we serve. We have more than 300 open clinical trials and 250 research teams studying cancer at any given time. More genes for inherited cancers have been discovered at Huntsman Cancer Institute than at any other cancer center. Our scientists are world-renowned for understanding how cancer begins and using that knowledge to develop innovative approaches to treat each patient’s unique disease. Huntsman Cancer Institute was founded by Jon M. and Karen Huntsman.

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[Press-News.org] Researchers honored for outstanding contributions to cancer care