Oncologist joins in event with vice president

JoAnne Virgilio, a doctor with the Community Hospital Grand Valley Oncology, was among the participants in roundtable discussion about cancer research that included Vice President Joe Biden.

The Huntsman Cancer Institute in Salt Lake City hosted the event as part of an initiative under the Barack Obama administration to increase the rate of progress on efforts to cure cancer.

Virgilio is among the oncologists who joined Community Hospital and enabled the hospital to open a cancer center and subsequently establish an affiliation with the Huntsman Cancer Institute.

Biden has traveled to cancer institutes around the country to discuss the initiative and collaborate with researchers and physicians to find ways to accelerate progress toward treating, preventing and curing cancer.

“I know science will catch up. This is about aggregating the intellectual, moral, emotional, scientific and capital elements in this country and do within five years what would otherwise take us 10 to 15 years to do,” Biden said. “I think we can do that. And that means thousands of lives saved and millions of lives affected.”

Dr. John Sweentenham, clinical affairs director at the Huntsman Cancer Institute, said, “We need to find ways that share expertise that already exists here.”

Sweentenham said the Huntsman Cancer Institute has affiliated hospitals in Colorado and Wyoming that share protocols and referrals to clinical trials, even creating access to hometown clinical trials for patients in other states.

The Huntsman Cancer Institute also manages the largest genetic database in the world, with more than 22 million records linked to genealogies, health records and vital statistics.